Billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant Group won approval to list in Shanghai, clearing a key hurdle as the company prepares for what could become the world’s largest initial public offering.
In a hearing Friday, the Shanghai stock exchange asked Ant about connected transactions with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and reasons for excluding Alibaba as a common controlling shareholder, before giving the green light.
The exchange’s statement on the hearing didn’t elaborate on Ant’s responses to the questions. The company still needs to hold a hearing with the Hong Kong stock exchange to complete its planned dual listing.
The simultaneous listing could mark the biggest debut ever, topping Saudi Aramco’s record $29 billion IPO. The firm is targeting a valuation of about $225 billion, based on an IPO of about $30 billion if markets are favorable, people familiar with the matter have said. That would match Bank of America Corp.’s market capitalization, and be more than twice the size of Citigroup Inc. Among U.S. banks, only JPMorgan Chase & Co. is bigger.
In the wake of its IPO plans becoming public, Ant has been hit by a flurry of new regulations aimed at reducing risks in China’s online finance sector. Regulators have curbed small loan funding sources, capped lending rates, and imposed new capital and license requirements on Ant and other conglomerates.
Ant, which has grown out of the Alipay payments app, now gets a bulk of its revenue from providing quick consumer loans, fueling China’s growing consumer spending. It also runs an insurance businesses and money market funds, on top of providing credit scoring and technological services for the finance industry.