Ant Group IPO pricing ‘history’s largest’, says Alibaba’s Jack Ma

Backed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, fintech firm Ant Group plans to list simultaneously in the stock markets of Hong Kong and Shanghai in the coming weeks. (AFP)
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Updated 24 October 2020

Ant Group IPO pricing ‘history’s largest’, says Alibaba’s Jack Ma

  • Sources have said the listing could be worth $35 billion, surpassing Saudi Aramco’s 2019 record float

DUBAI: The mammoth dual listing for Chinese fintech giant Ant Group will be the world’s biggest, according to a pricing determined on Friday night, Alibaba founder Jack Ma said on Saturday.

“It’s the first time that the pricing of such a big listing — the largest in human history — has been determined outside New York City” he told the Bund Summit in the eastern financial hub of Shanghai.

“We didn’t dare to think about it five years ago, or even three years ago. But a miracle just occurred,” he told the audience, which included officials from China’s regulators.

He did not give exact details of the pricing which is expected to be officially announced next week.

Backed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, Ant plans to list simultaneously in Hong Kong and on Shanghai’s STAR Market in the coming weeks.

Sources have said the listing could be worth $35 billion, surpassing the record set by Saudi Aramco’s $29.4 billion float last December.

Ma said the financial and regulatory system stifles innovation, calling for a revamp to extend financial services to more small firms and individuals on the basis of technology — an ethos that Ant is largely based on.

He said the global system established after the Second World War is outdated and too risk-averse, calling the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision “an old men’s club” and warning that risks are accumulating in the whole economy.

In China, banks still operate with a strong “pawnshop” mentality, demanding collateral and guarantees before lending, a model that will fail to fuel future growth, he said.

Instead, he said a new, inclusive and universal banking system that lends to small businesses and individuals on the basis of big data should be established.

Ant, which has an extensive payment and micro-lending business that is largely based on big data, has faced rising scrutiny from regulators.

“Today’s financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age,” Ma said. “We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system.”


Fishing rights top Brexit talks agenda

Updated 30 November 2020

Fishing rights top Brexit talks agenda

  • A no-deal scenario is widely expected to cause economic chaos

LONDON: Last-ditch Brexit trade talks continued in London on Sunday with fishing rights remaining an “outstanding major bone of contention,” according to British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters that “work continues, even on a Sunday,” as he arrived for the second day of talks.

Barnier had arrived in London on Friday following a spell in self-isolation after a member of his team contracted coronavirus and ahead of the resumption of talks with British counterpart David Frost on Saturday.

Both men warned that a deal could not be reached without major concessions from the other party.

There are only five weeks to go until the end of the current transition period, during which trade relations have remained largely unchanged.

The two key sticking points remain post-Brexit access to British fishing waters for European vessels and the EU’s demand for trade penalties if either side diverges from common standards or state aid regulations rules.

Raab told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that this could be the final week of “substantive” talks, with time running out to agree and ratify a deal.

“There’s a deal to be done,” he said.

“On fishing there’s a point of principle: As we leave the EU we’re going to be an independent coastal state and we’ve got to be able to control our waters,” he added.

Barnier told envoys last week that London was asking that European access to UK waters be cut by 80 percent, while the EU was willing to accept 15 to 18 percent, according to a Brussels source.

A British official called the demands “risible,” according to the domestic Press Association, adding that the “EU side knows full well that we would never accept this.”

“There seems to be a failure from the Commission to internalize the scale of change needed as we become an independent nation,” said the source.

However, Raab was cautiously optimistic over the “level playing field” issue, saying “it feels like there is progress toward greater respect” for Britain’s position.

A failure to reach an agreement would see Britain and the EU trading on World Trade Organization terms, with tariffs immediately imposed on goods traveling to and from the continent.

As it stands, Britain will leave Europe’s trade and customs area on Dec. 31, with no prospect of an extension.

A no-deal scenario is widely expected to cause economic chaos, with customs checks required at borders.

Concern is particularly acute on the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, where the sudden imposition of a hard border threatens the delicate peace secured by 1999’s Good Friday Agreement.

The talks have already dragged on much longer than expected and time is running out for ratification of any deal by the European Parliament by the end of the year.