What will a restructuring mean for Ant Group’s valuation? One estimate sees it dropping 50%

January 28, 2021, 11:04 AM UTC

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In early November, Chinese fintech giant Ant Group was on the brink of achieving the biggest initial public offering in history, raising as much as $37 billion to reach a valuation north of $300 billion. But at the last minute, financial regulators in Beijing pulled the plug on Ant’s IPO, saying the company needed to comply with new regulatory requirements first.

Ant will now reportedly undergo a restructuring that will classify it as a financial holding company—not the tech firm its founders and executives long tried to sell it as. The restructuring would place it under the supervision of China’s central bank.

The restructuring plans, which the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, will make a significant dent in Ant’s valuation whenever it does move forward with the suspended IPO, analysts say. Ant declined to comment.

Ant’s valuation could shrink as much as 49%, according to Iris Tan, senior equity analyst at Morningstar. Morningstar gave Ant an estimated $310 billion valuation in the run-up to the IPO in November. According to the firm’s calculations, the restructuring could reduce that figure to $162 billion in a bear scenarioin which Ant would be subject to capital requirements similar to a bank’sor to around $270 billion, a 16% dip, in a more optimistic bull scenario.

Morningstar’s base case for Ant’s new valuation after the restructuring—the scenario it deems most likely to occur—projects a 29% decrease, which would give Ant a valuation of $227 billion.

“For companies that are going to be entitled or regulated as financial holding companies, stringent capital requirements should be met and lofty valuations could be less likely,” said Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research for investment bank China Renaissance.

Regulators are already hinting that Ant’s IPO may be revived, but “what likely can’t be revived…is Ant’s $300 billion valuation,” says Brock Silvers, chief investment officer at Kaiyuan Capital.

Silvers didn’t have an exact estimate for how big a hit the restructuring would inflict on Ant’s valuation but said it would be “quite significant.” Remaking itself as a financial holding company under the central bank’s authority would mean slower growth and higher costs for Ant, in additional to significant changes to its business model.

Already, regulators are requiring Ant to put up 30% of the capital for loans on its platform, up from around 2% before the new regulations. And Ant’s credit lending services contributed the biggest share of revenue—almost 40%—in the six months ended June 2020, according to the filing application Ant submitted to the Hong Kong stock exchange last year in anticipation of the scuppered IPO.

“As regulatory compliance should significantly hit both growth and profitability, the frenzy surrounding Ant’s earlier, aborted IPO is unlikely to be repeated,” Silvers says.