Monday 15 October 2018

Jack Ma's Ant raises record for payments

Employees at the reception desk of Ant Financial Services Group, Alibaba's financial affiliate, at its headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China. Photo: Reuters
Employees at the reception desk of Ant Financial Services Group, Alibaba's financial affiliate, at its headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China. Photo: Reuters

Lulu Yilun Chen

China's Ant Financial, the payments giant controlled by Jack Ma, has raised about $14bn (e11.9bn) in its latest funding round as it accelerates the expansion of Alipay globally and develops new technology.

The financing included a US dollar tranche backed by Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte as well as Warburg Pincus, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Silver Lake, and Temasek, the Hangzhou-based company said in a statement Friday. A yuan- denominated component of the funding was supported mainly by existing shareholders.

The funding makes Ant the world's largest fintech firm and equips it with enormous resources for expansion. The affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is already China's biggest online payments service and controls the world's largest money market fund as it moves deeper into areas from consumer lending to credit scoring. Ant Financial posted a 65pc jump in pre-tax profit, rising to 9.18 billion yuan in fiscal year 2018 which ended in March.

"China is entering the next phase of its development which will require a more efficient financial services ecosystem," said John Ho, founder of Hong Kong-based investment firm Janchor Partners which participated in this round. "With its technology, Ant is in a position to enable ordinary consumers to find and access financial services they weren't able to before."

Ant Financial didn't disclose a valuation from the funding round. The company was raising funds at a $150bn valuation, Bloomberg News reported in May.

Other investors in the latest round included General Atlantic, Carlyle Group, Janchor Partners, Discovery Capital Management, Baillie Gifford, Primavera Capital and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Ant said in the statement.

"Now, with the help of our partners, we are going to accelerate our strategy," Ant's CEO Eric Jing said in the statement.

The capital infusion can aid Ant's battle with Tencent Holdings for consumers while helping the company weather more stringent regulatory clampdowns.

Temasek's backing could also be key as Ant seeks to promote the use of Alipay beyond China.

In February, Alibaba announced plans to buy a 33pc stake that would give the e-commerce operator its first ownership interest in its payments affiliate since it was controversially spun out in 2011. Formally known as Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services, Ant Financial's Alipay has been instrumental in driving Alibaba's core business and is increasingly employed in physical stores in China and abroad. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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