Ant Financial raises $14B to become biggest fintech firm
Chinese digital payments giant Ant Financial said on Friday it had raised $14 billion in its latest financing round, making it the world's largest fintech company ahead of an expected mammoth IPO.
Market watchers called it the biggest-ever single fundraising globally by a private company.
The cash infusion for Ant, an affiliate of e-commerce heavyweight Alibaba, provides fresh resources as its payments platform Alipay battles Tencent for supremacy in the vast and growing market for global digital transactions and other financial services. Ant said in a statement that the funds will be invested in new technologies and to accelerate Alipay's expansion abroad and into new sectors.
Alipay and Tencent's WeChat Pay are China's online-payments leaders, profiting handsomely as consumers throw themselves into e-commerce, ordering goods and services via mobile apps and online.
Ant Financial did not provide a total value for the company, but Bloomberg News recently reported it was raising funds at a $150 billion valuation. Bloomberg said the latest round makes the company, based in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, the world's largest fintech firm. Ant Financial is believed to be planning an IPO expected to become one of the largest in years, amid speculation it could list on one of China's two exchanges.
Alibaba and other big tech companies such as Baidu and Tencent previously chose to list on Wall Street or in Hong Kong.
But China has been making moves to encourage future listings on domestic markets to keep a new generation of technology titans closer to home as it pushes to challenge the US for primacy in the strategic sector.
Ant Financial says Alipay and its overseas partners in several countries serve around 870 million annual active users globally, and over 15 million small businesses in China.
In a statement, Ant said the funding included both US dollar and Chinese yuan tranches. The dollar share made up over $10 billion, said people with knowledge of the matter.
Ant listed Singaporean sovereign wealth fund (SWF) GIC Pte Ltd and state investor Temasek Holdings (Private) Ltd as well as US private equity firm Warburg Pincus as participants in the dollar tranche.
Other global investors included Malaysian SWF Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and US private equity firms Silver Lake and General Atlantic, it said.
"It's the most uniquely positioned TechFin company in the world," said Ben Zhou, a managing director of Warburg Pincus, who led the firm's investment in Ant.