Jack Ma Says Ant Group Has Set Pricing for Its Record IPO
An IPO sign inside the Euronext NV Paris stock exchange. Companies use the primary market for raising capital, which is required for growth of business. (Photographer: Cyril Marcilhacy/Bloomberg)

Jack Ma Says Ant Group Has Set Pricing for Its Record IPO

Ant Group Co. has set the price for its initial public offering in Shanghai, paving the way for a blockbuster sale that may give the Chinese fintech giant a valuation higher than JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Billionaire founder Jack Ma, speaking at a weekend conference, said Ant has determined the IPO price, though he didn’t disclose the amount. Pricing details for the China shares are expected by Tuesday, with the Hong Kong price to be announced as soon as Oct. 29, people familiar with the matter have said.

The stock sale by Ma’s finance giant is one of the most hotly anticipated IPOs in years, on course to make history by surpassing Saudi Aramco’s record $29 billion share sale in 2019. Large investors have put in bids of about 68 to 69 yuan a share for the Shanghai stock, Reuters reported. That would value the China portion of the sale at as much as $17.3 billion, or close to $35 billion for the dual listing including the Hong Kong leg.

“This was the first time such a big listing, the largest in human history, was priced outside New York City,” Ma told the Bund Summit in Shanghai Saturday. “We wouldn’t have dared to think about it five years, or even three years ago.”

Jack Ma Says Ant Group Has Set Pricing for Its Record IPO

The company may raise another $5 billion after it exercises the so-called greenshoe option to meet demand, people familiar with the matter have said, adding the numbers are subject to change. That would give Ant a valuation of about $320 billion, making it bigger than JPMorgan and four times larger than Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The IPO is attracting interest from some of the world’s biggest money managers, and sparking a frenzy among individual investors in China clamoring for a piece of the sale.

T. Rowe Price Group Inc., UBS Asset Management and FMR LLC, the parent of Fidelity Investments, are among the money managers angling for a piece of the deal, a person familiar with the matter has said.

Each of the firms is considering investments worth several billion dollars in the Hong Kong-listed shares, though they’ve yet to finalize plans and there’s no guarantee they’ll get an allocation, the person said.

Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte, Temasek Holdings Pte and China’s $318 billion National Council for Social Security Fund are also jockeying for a slice of the IPO, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month. Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. will also buy new Ant shares to maintain its ownership stake at around 32%.

Leveraged Loans

Hong Kong stockbrokers are so confident Ant IPO will go smoothly that they’re offering to let mom-and-pop investors buy the stock with as much as 20 times leverage. That matches the highest ratio ever offered by brokerages including Bright Smart Securities & Commodities Group and UP Fintech Holding Ltd. HSBC Holdings Plc has set aside more than HK$100 billion ($13 billion) of margin loans for retail investors to subscribe to the Hong Kong IPO, Hong Kong Economic Journal reported, citing the lender.

With the pricing this week, investors will have to commit to the deal just days before a U.S. presidential election that could have ramifications for both Ant’s overseas expansion plans and investor risk-appetite. Shares will almost certainly start trading only after the U.S. vote on Nov. 3.

The company will issue no more than 1.67 billion shares in China, equivalent to 5.5% of the total outstanding before the greenshoe option, according to its prospectus on the Shanghai stock exchange. It will issue the same amount for its Hong Kong offering. The Shanghai shares will be listed under the ticker “688688,” according to the prospectus. Ant is expected to start taking orders for the Hong Kong portion Monday, people familiar with the matter said.

Elderly Club

Ant has picked China International Capital Corp. and CSC Financial Co. to lead the Shanghai leg of the IPO. CICC, Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley are heading the Hong Kong offering.

At the weekend conference, Ma criticized global financial regulations for stifling innovation and urged China to seek a system that accommodated development. He compared the Basel Accords, which set out capital requirements for banks, to a club for the elderly.

“After the Asian financial crisis, the risk control highlighted in the Basel Accords has been” the priority for regulators, Ma said. “Rarely do they consider opportunities for young people and developing countries.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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