Fintech group’s increasing power raises policy issues for regulators
Six years ago, the billionaire Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma launched his technology services group Alibaba on the New York Stock Exchange in what was then the world’s largest stock market flotation. After losing that crown to Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, Mr Ma is poised to take it back when Ant Group, the financial technology business spun out of Alibaba and which he controls, lists in Shanghai and Hong Kong next week. It is expected to raise $34.4bn, surpassing the $29.4bn Saudi Aramco raised last December.
The record-busting initial public offering is a culmination of Mr Ma’s vision to disrupt China’s financial services industry. In just a few years, his company has changed the way billions of Chinese consumers and small businesses pay, borrow and invest. With an expected market capitalisation of $313bn, eclipsing that of many of the world’s established banking giants, Ant has become a technology-services titan boasting more than 700m monthly active users of its Alipay app.
The upcoming flotation is a powerful symbol of China’s growing confidence; its leaders will see Ant as proof that it need not be second best in any sector or rely on western business models and technology to prosper. The timing too, is opportune; China’s leadership, meeting this week to set a new five-year policy direction, can rightly point to an economy that is recovering faster than any other from the pandemic.