Ant Group (螞蟻集團) plans to increase the valuation target for its initial public offering (IPO) to at least US$280 billion due to strong demand, charging ahead with the sale even as the administration of US President Donald Trump weighs restrictions on the Chinese fintech giant, people familiar with the matter said.
The Hangzhou-based company is lifting the target by at least 12 percent from a previous estimate of US$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 US$35 billion in the sale, they said.
Despite the US headwinds, Jack Ma’s (馬雲) 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 US$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 US$29 billion raise.
The Hong Kong stock exchange has scheduled an Ant hearing for as soon as next week, pending an approval from the China Securities Regulatory Commission, a requirement for companies conducting dual listings in mainland China and Hong Kong, the people 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 is delayed much further, the IPO risks straddling the Nov. 3 US presidential 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 that 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 (騰訊), over concerns that their digital payment platforms threaten US national security.
Trump’s ban on Tencent’s WeChat in the US is facing pushback. A US magistrate judge this week said that she is unlikely to allow Washington to implement prohibitions on Wechat while the US government appeals her earlier ruling.
Ant said it is 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 (工銀國際) and BOC International to its list of joint book runners for the Hong Kong sale, the people said.
That is in addition to China International Capital Corp (中金公司), 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 fund GIC Pte is planning to invest more than US$1 billion in Ant’s Hong Kong and Shanghai IPO, the people said.
The listing is also drawing interest from investors like Temasek Holdings Pte and the China’s National Council for Social Security Fund, they said.
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