Investors line up for Ant Group's record $34.4 billion IPO

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese financial technology giant Ant Group <688688.SS> has set terms for a dual listing aimed at raising up to $34.4 billion from the world's largest stock market debut, with investors scrambling for a piece of the fast-growing company.

The deal would value Ant at more than $313 billion before a so-called greenshoe option for a 15% overallotment of shares. At that valuation, Ant is worth more than Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world's biggest bank by assets.

The looming market debut, however, is clouded by concerns over growing regulatory scrutiny of Ant's lucrative consumer credit business as well as a U.S. State Department proposal to add the fintech group to a trade blacklist.

Global investors, however, have largely shrugged off those concerns as they bet on continued rapid growth of a group that also operates China's biggest mobile payments platform and distributes wealth management and insurance products.

Announcing the deal terms on Monday, Ant said that large, strategic investors in the Shanghai tranche of the initial public offering (IPO) would include Singapore state investor Temasek Holding, as well as Singaporean and Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth funds GIC and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

ALIBABA INTEREST

It has earmarked 80% of its domestic offering to 29 strategic investors that will be locked up for at least one year and will also include a wholly-owned unit of technology giant Alibaba <9988.HK> and China's National Council for Social Security Fund.

While the Alibaba unit has agreed to purchase 44% of the Shanghai float, large Chinese insurers and mutual funds will also have shares allocated via the strategic investor route, Monday's filing showed.

Referring to Ant's float as a "miracle", the billionaire founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, on Saturday told a conference in Shanghai that it is the first time the pricing for such a big listing has been determined outside New York.

Headquartered in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, Ant is aiming to raise about $17.2 billion in Shanghai and roughly the same in Hong Kong, Ant said in filings to the two exchanges late on Monday.

The envisioned $34.4 billion total offering, even before the greenshoe option, would comfortably beat Saudi Aramco's <2222.SE> $29.4 billion IPO last December.

Ant shares are expected to start trading in Hong Kong and Shanghai on Nov. 5, two days after the U.S. election, in the first dual listing in the Asian financial hub and on the year-old STAR market.

Ant set the price tag for the Shanghai leg of the listing at 68.8 yuan ($10.27) per share and HK$80 ($10.32) per share for the Hong Kong tranche, the exchange filings showed.

Reuters on Saturday reported that many large Chinese fund managers had bid for Ant shares in the listing on the Nasdaq-style STAR Market in Shanghai at close to 69 yuan ($10.32) per share.

SHANGHAI RECORD

Ant plans to sell 1.67 billion shares in Shanghai, which would be China's biggest IPO and eclipse the record set by Agricultural Bank of China's <601288.SS> $10.1 billion float in 2010.

The company will also sell same number of shares in Hong Kong to raise $17.24 billion, which would be the largest IPO in the Asian financial hub since insurance major AIA's $20.5 billion offering in 2010.

The bookbuilding for the Hong Kong leg will run from Monday to Friday, while books for the Shanghai leg open for one day on Thursday.

Ant's IPO would also serve to burnish STAR's status at a time when rising tensions between China and the United States have triggered concern over the listing of Chinese companies in New York. Companies raised $22.5 billion via IPOs and secondary listings on STAR between the start of the year and mid-October, making it the third-biggest stock market behind Nasdaq and Hong Kong, Refinitiv data shows.

CICC <3908.HK> and China Securities Co <6066.HK> are sponsoring Ant's STAR offering.

($1 = 6.7005 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Julie Zhu and Scott Murdoch; Additional reporting by Samuel Shen in Shanghai and Anshuman Daga in Singapore; Writing by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Jane Merriman and David Goodman)

10/26/2020 15:45

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