Ant Group to raise up to $34.4bn in world’s biggest IPO

The logo of Ant Financial Services Group, Alibaba's financial affiliate, is pictured at its headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, China October 26, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 October 2020

Ant Group to raise up to $34.4bn in world’s biggest IPO

  • The deal would value Ant at more than $313 billion before a so-called greenshoe option for a 15 percent overallotment of shares

HONG KONG: Chinese financial technology giant Ant Group has set terms for a dual listing aimed at raising up to $34.4 billion from the world’s largest stock market debut, with investors scrambling for a piece of the fast-growing company.

The deal would value Ant at more than $313 billion before a so-called greenshoe option for a 15 percent overallotment of shares. At that valuation, Ant is worth more than Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s biggest bank by assets.

The looming market debut, however, is clouded by concerns over growing regulatory scrutiny of Ant’s lucrative consumer credit business as well as a US State Department proposal to add the fintech group to a trade blacklist.

Global investors, however, have largely shrugged off those concerns as they bet on continued rapid growth of a group that also operates China’s biggest mobile payments platform and distributes wealth management and insurance products.

Alibaba interest

It has earmarked 80 percent of its domestic offering to 29 strategic investors that will be locked up for at least one year and will also include a wholly owned unit of technology giant Alibaba and China’s National Council for Social Security Fund.

While the Alibaba unit has agreed to purchase 44 percent of the Shanghai float, large Chinese insurers and mutual funds will also have shares allocated via the strategic investor route, Monday’s filing showed.

Referring to Ant’s float as a “miracle,” the billionaire founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, on Saturday told a conference in Shanghai that it is the first time the pricing for such a big listing has been determined outside New York.

Headquartered in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, Ant is aiming to raise about $17.2 billion in Shanghai and roughly the same in Hong Kong, Ant said in filings to the two exchanges late on Monday.


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.