By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
June 8, 2018

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The number is mind-boggling: $14 billion. That’s how much Ant Financial, the payments and financial services affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, raised in a private financing that included a who’s who of non-Chinese investors such as Silver Lake, General Atlantic, Temasek, and Carlyle.

The word “Alibaba” doesn’t appear in Ant’s news release, a curious omission given that Alibaba and its managers control the company. Alibaba agreed earlier in the year to convert certain profit-sharing rights into a one-third ownership in Ant, paving the way, along with this fundraising, for an eventual initial public offering of Ant.

But back to the startling size of the offering. It make total sense considering the scope of Ant’s potential. The company’s Alipay digital payments system and other financial services claim 870 million annual active users globally and a financial relationship with 15 million Chinese small businesses. The vast majority of Ant’s business is in China, but it will use the fresh capital for global expansion. Already it has branched into several countries in Southeast and South Asia. Alipay even is accepted in New York City cabs—a nod to the explosion of Chinese tourists.

What makes Ant’s success even more astounding is that it faces a fierce foe at home. Tencent’s WeChat Pay has gained a large chunk of online payments in China, a market Alipay once had more or less to itself. Yet the market is so big and growing so quickly that Ant can raise $14 billion in one gulp.

It’s an important sign of China’s power. Once content to exploit the lucrative domestic market—one protected from foreign competition—its Internet champions are branching out. And they’re carrying plenty of cash in their pockets.

Adam Lashinsky


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