Ant Group set for record $34bn market debut

Ant Group Co Ltd is poised to raise up to $34.4 billion in the world’s largest stock market debut as investors rush to buy into the fast-growing Chinese fintech giant despite risks of greater scrutiny at home and abroad.  Headquartered in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, Ant is aiming to raise about $17.2 billion in Shanghai and roughly the same value in Hong Kong. This dual listing, which is a a first for Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style STAR Market and Hong Kong, would value Ant at about $312 billion before a so-called greenshoe option for a 15% overallotment of shares.

Ant Group has earmarked 80% of its domestic offering to 29 strategic investors that will be locked up for at least one year. A wholly-owned unit of Alibaba has agreed to purchase 44% of the Shanghai float.

At the $34.4bn valuation, Ant is worth more than Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s biggest bank by assets. The valuation that is raised will also shatter the record set by oil major Saudi Arabian Oil Co (Saudi Aramco) with its $29.4 billion listing last December.

Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Ant and affiliate Alibaba Group Holding, said it was a “miracle” that such a large listing is taking place outside New York. Ant’s looming market debut had been clouded by concerns over growing regulatory scrutiny at home for its lucrative consumer credit business as well as a U.S. State Department proposal to add the company to a trade blacklist.

However,  global investors have largely shrugged off those concerns as they bet on continued rapid growth of a group that also operates China’s biggest mobile payments platform and distributes wealth management and insurance products.

“The fear of missing out and the lack of other opportunities of this calibre” was spurring investor interest in the IPO, said Justin Tang, head of Asian research at investment adviser United First Partners in Singapore.

Ant’s order books on the Hong Kong offering to institutional investors was oversubscribed one hour after the launch, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said. Many prospective investors placed orders worth at least $1 billion in the first hour, said one of the sources, adding that the number of the institutional orders could reach about 1,000.

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Author: Lauren Towner

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