Ant Financial, the Alibaba affiliate that looks after the firm’s hugely popular Alipay service, is reportedly gearing up for an enormous funding round that could take its valuation to $100-$150 billion.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Ant is in talks to raise upwards of $9 billion at the $100 billion mark, while Bloomberg suggested that Singapore’s sovereign fund Temasek is vying to lead a round of $10 billion at a valuation of $150 billion. Either round would make Ant the highest valued unicorn on the planet although it is hard to call the firm a startup considering its reliance and history with Alibaba, which it spun out of seven years ago.
Alibaba declined to comment on “market rumors.”
The round looks like a pre-IPO raise, with Ant tipped to go public potentially as soon as this year, although exactly where it will list remains unclear.
That was the case last year, when the company raised $4.5 billion at a valuation of $60 billion, but a valuation of $100 billion plus would see Ant eclipse financial heavyweights like Goldman Sachs and PayPal.
Ant is clearly a global leader based on its China business, where it offers the Alipay mobile payment service, digital banking and other financial services. All told, it claims to reach over 520 million users in China, but it is likely Ant’s overseas expansion plan, mixed with Alibaba’s phenomenal money-making, that is driving its valuation to these new levels.
Ant spent 2017 making a series of investments to expand its ecosystem across Asia and beyond.
That included a high-profile investment in KakaoPay, the mobile payment service from Korea’s top messenger app, deals across Southeast Asia and the $1.2 billion acquisition of remittance firm MoneyGram which was ultimately aborted after failing to gain U.S. Government approval. It also doubled down on India, where it has backed local payment champ Paytm.
Ant’s strategy has been simple, find local partners with existing reach who can help it get into the payment and financial services in Southeast Asia and other key markets in Asia.
It is still early days for that push but that expansion focus, plus its relationship with Alibaba — which plans to take up an option to buy 33 percent of Ant’s business — appears to be pushing the valuation to these new heights.