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Jack Ma’s Ant Set to Raise $35 Billion in Biggest-Ever IPO

Lulu Yilun Chen
·4-min read

(Bloomberg) -- Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co. is set to raise about $34.5 billion through initial public offerings in Shanghai and Hong Kong, a blockbuster listing that will rank as the biggest IPO ever and make it one of the most valuable finance firms on the planet.

Demand has been so high the company plans to stop taking investor orders for the Hong Kong leg a day earlier than scheduled as the share sale has already been heavily subscribed, according to people familiar with the matter.

The fintech giant will have a market value of about $315 billion based on filings Monday, bigger than JPMorgan Chase & Co. and four times larger than Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The sale vaults Ma’s fortune to $71.6 billion, topping the Walmart Inc. heirs.

The IPO is attracting interest from some of the world’s biggest money managers, and sparking a frenzy among individual investors in China clamoring for a piece of the sale. In the preliminary price consultation of its Shanghai IPO, institutional investors subscribed for over 76 billion shares, more than 284 times the initial offline offering tranche, according to Ant’s Shanghai offering announcement.

“This was the first time such a big listing, the largest in human history, was priced outside New York City,” billionaire founder Ma told the Bund Summit in Shanghai Saturday. “We wouldn’t have dared to think about it five years, or even three years ago.”

The strong demand puts the much-anticipated IPO on track to surpass Saudi Aramco’s $29 billion sale last year. Ant priced its Shanghai stock at 68.8 yuan ($10.27) apiece and its Hong Kong shares at HK$80 ($10.32) each. The company may raise another $5.17 billion if it exercises the option to sell additional shares to meet demand, known as the greenshoe.

This is “a homecoming for capital markets in Shanghai and Hong Kong,” said John Ho, founder of Janchor Partners. Ho, who invested $400 million in Ant two years ago, added that he’s trying to secure a bigger allocation of the Hong Kong shares and that being able to invest in Ant “is priceless.”

T. Rowe Price Group Inc., UBS Asset Management and FMR LLC, the parent of Fidelity Investments, are among the money managers angling for a piece of the deal, a person familiar with the matter has said. Hong Kong stockbrokers are so confident Ant IPO will go smoothly that they’re offering to let mom-and-pop investors buy the stock with as much as 20 times leverage.

Ant began when Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. launched the Alipay payments app in 2004 as an escrow service for buyers and sellers on Ma’s e-commerce website. In 2013, they were given the ability to save money and earn interest on the balances stored on their accounts. The firm then started offering credit to small businesses, branching out from its consumer-finance focus, and eventually expanded to services such as block chain, cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

“The investment thesis of Ant is a systemic valuation transfer from mainstream Chinese financial institutions such as banks to a platform that’s data-driven, with a huge network effect, and enjoying almost zero marginal costs of cross-selling,” said Nick Xiao, CEO of Hywin International, the Hong Kong arm of Hywin Wealth that’s helping rich individuals buy shares of Ant. “Every bank and securities house and fund manager will have to plug into it, while every consumer, corporate or individual, cannot live without it.”

The fintech giant is charging ahead with its landmark offering just days ahead of the U.S. election. The Hong Kong trading debut will be on Nov. 5., only two days after the U.S. vote, an event that could spark market volatility if the vote is disputed or counting delayed.

Ant has picked China International Capital Corp. and CSC Financial Co. to lead its Shanghai leg of the IPO. CICC, Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan. and Morgan Stanley are heading the Hong Kong offering. Existing Ant shareholders won’t be able to sell shares for six months, according to the filings.

The company will issue no more than 1.67 billion shares in China, equivalent to 5.5% of the total outstanding before the greenshoe, according to its prospectus on the Shanghai stock exchange. It will issue the same amount for the Hong Kong offering, or about 3.3 billion shares in total.

Alibaba Group, which was co-founded by Ma and currently owns about a third of Ant, has agreed to subscribe for 730 million of the Shanghai shares, which will be listed in Shanghai under the ticker “688688,” according to the prospectus. Alibaba will hold about 32% of Ant shares after the IPO.

(Adds details on order book from second paragraph)

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