Ant Group plans to increase the valuation target for its initial public offering to at least $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 U.S. 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 Corp. and three times the size of Citigroup Inc., 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 emailed 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 Nov. 3 U.S. 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 Holdings Ltd., over concerns that their digital payment platforms threaten U.S. national security.
Trump’s ban on Tencent’s WeChat in the U.S. 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.
Ant has added Barclays Plc, ICBC International and BOC International to its list of joint book runners for the Hong Kong sale, people familiar said. That’s in addition to China International Capital Corp, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley acting as sponsors and Credit Suisse Group AG acting as joint global coordinator for the Hong Kong leg.
Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte is planning to invest more than $1 billion in Ant’s Hong Kong and Shanghai IPO, people familiar have said. The listing is also drawing interest from other existing investors like Temasek Holdings Pte and the National Council for Social Security Fund, they said. -Bloomberg
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