Ant Group plans to increase the valuation target for its initial public offering to at least US$280-billion due to strong demand, charging ahead with the sale even as the Trump administration weighs restrictions on the Chinese fintech giant, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Hangzhou-based company is lifting the target by at least 12% from a previous estimate of $250-billion after initial discussions with investors, the people said, requesting not to be identified because the matter is private. Ant aims to raise about $35-billion in the sale, people familiar said.
Despite the US headwinds, Jack Ma’s Ant is moving ahead with what could be the world’s largest IPO, with same-day listings in Hong Kong and Shanghai, the people said. At $280-billion, Ant would be bigger than Bank of America and three times the size of Citigroup, while its sale would top Saudi Aramco’s record $29-billion raise.
The Hong Kong stock exchange has scheduled an Ant hearing for as soon as next week, pending an approval from the Chinese securities watchdog, a requirement for companies conducting dual listings in China and Hong Kong, people familiar said. Ant and the Hong Kong bourse declined to comment in e-mailed statements.
The Hong Kong hearing before a 28-member panel of external professionals has been expected for weeks but has yet to happen. If it’s delayed much further, the IPO risks straddling the 3 November US election where some expect a surge in postal ballots to create prolonged uncertainty. The one-week gap in Hong Kong between the pricing of an IPO and the start of trading means investors would be left exposed to an increase in volatility.
The Trump administration is exploring restrictions on Ant, as well as rival Tencent, over concerns that their digital payment platforms threaten US national security.
Trump’s ban on Tencent’s WeChat in the US is facing push-back. A magistrate judge said this week she’s unlikely to allow the country to implement prohibitions on WeChat while the government appeals her earlier ruling.
Ant said it’s making progress in getting the required approvals for its IPO in Shanghai and Hong Kong, following reports that it has yet to receive a green light from the Chinese securities watchdog. — (c) 2020 Bloomberg LP