© Lv Liang/ICHPL Imaginechina/AP The logo of Alipay, a third-party mobile and online payment platform established by Alibaba group, is seen at its headquarters in Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone, Shanghai, China, 8 May 2020. (Imaginechina via AP Images)
One of China’s biggest tech firms has chosen to stay home for its blockbuster IPO, shunning Wall Street where Chinese companies are facing heightened scrutiny because of rising geopolitical tensions.
Ant Financial announced on Monday that it is planning “a concurrent initial public offering” in Hong Kong and on Shanghai’s Star Market, China’s answer to the Nasdaq.
Ant is affiliated with e-commerce giant Alibaba, which raised a record $25 billion when it debuted on Wall Street in 2014 — still the world’s second largest IPO to date. Ant owns Alipay, one of the most popular payment apps in China, and also offers online financial services such as loans, investments and credit scoring systems. The Hangzhou-based company is worth some $150 billion, according to CB Insights.
The move is a boost of confidence for Hong Kong. The city’s status as Asia’s financial hub is in doubt after Beijing imposed a controversial national security law on Hong Kong. Ant’s announcement coincided with news that the Hang Seng will get a new index to track the 30 largest tech firms that trade in Hong Kong. Ant would very likely be included.
Eric Jing, executive chairman of Ant Group, signaled his support for Hong Kong and mainland China in a statement on Monday.
“The innovative measures implemented by [the Shanghai and Hong Kong markets] have opened the doors for global investors to access leading edge technology companies from the most dynamic economies in the world and for those companies to have greater access to the capital markets,” he said in a statement.
Those measures include Hong Kong allowing companies to list with dual-class shares, a structure often favored by tech companies because it allows founders to retain control. That was not the case back in 2014, and was one of the reasons billionaire founder Jack Ma chose to list Alibaba in New York instead. Shanghai’s Star Market also allows such shareholding structures.
Ant’s IPO would follow a string of high-profile public offerings in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
SMIC, China’s biggest chipmaking company, raised $6.6 billion from a secondary listing on the Star Market last week, and its shares popped more than 100% on their debut. E-commerce company JD.Com raised $4 billion in a secondary listing in Hong Kong last month, while Alibaba hauled in $13 billion in a secondary listing in Hong Kong late last year.
Ant did not provide details on when the IPO will take place. A spokesperson declined to comment.
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