ANT Financial Services Group is in talks with investors to boost its fundraising target to at least US$8 billion, which could see its valuation jumping to about US$150 billion, sources with knowledge of the plan said.
Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings is likely to be the lead investor in the latest round of equity raising by the company, controlled by Alibaba Group Holding founder Jack Ma, three sources said.
Reuters reported in February that Ant, owner of China’s top online payment platform Alipay, was planning to raise up to US$5 billion, which could value the firm at more than US$100 billion.
The fundraising plan comes ahead of an expected stock market flotation, though Ant has neither set a timetable for the initial public offering (IPO) nor has it chosen any location for the same.
A pre-IPO round is an increasingly common move by sought-after companies to establish valuations and widen their investor base ahead of going public.
A US$150 billion valuation would make Ant one of the biggest public flotations ever, dwarfing this year’s launch of Spotify and Dropbox. It would compare to the US$104 billion float of Facebook six years ago or Alibaba’s own US$168 billion valuation in 2014.
Ant’s last fundraising in April 2016 valued the company, seen by some analysts as one of the most valuable Alibaba assets due to its unique position in Chinese e-commerce, at about US$60 billion.
Alibaba set up Alipay in 2004. After becoming a dominant payments company in China, Ant Financial focused on international markets by buying a stake in Indian payment firm Paytm and Thai financial technology firm Ascend Money.
Its attempt to buy U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International was, however, blocked at the start of this year by U.S. officials on national security grounds, a blow to Ma who had promised President Donald Trump that he would create 1 million U.S. jobs.(SD-Agencies)