Chinese fintech giant, Ant Group — formerly Ant Financial — operates Alipay, the world’s largest digital payments platform. As it attempts to go public in one of the world’s largest IPOs, here’s what US investors need to know about how they can buy in.
Tuesday, April 13: Ant Group plans to apply to become a financial holding company to fall in line with regulatory restrictions from China’s central bank, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Wednesday, March 3: Ant Group’s executive chairman Eric Jing announced that the company is looking for ways to carry out its originally planned $37 billion initial public offering while complying with Chinese regulators who put the kibosh on the deal. Jing reportedly said that Ant Group is looking for a liquidity solution for employees to monetize shares after the IPOs cancellation.
Wednesday, January 20: Jack Ma, Ant Group’s co-founder, resurfaced in an online video, in which he praises China’s teachers. This is the first time Ma has been seen publicly since he criticized China’s regulatory system in October 2020. His physical whereabouts, however, have not been disclosed.
Wednesday, January 6: President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting transactions with companies behind eight Chinese apps, including Ant Group’s Alipay.
Tuesday, January 5: Ant Group’s co-founder, Jack Ma, has not reportedly not been seen in public since an October 2020 forum at which he was a speaker. Some sources have speculated that Ma has been missing since Chinese regulators summoned him and two Ant Group executives for an interview in November. Other sources suggest Ma has simply been lying low in the wake of this interview.
Monday, November 30: Due to regulatory changes in China, the Ant Group IPO might be delayed into 2022, Bloomberg reported.
Thursday, November 12: The Wall Street Journal reports that China’s President Xi Jinping personally blocked Ant Group’s IPO.
Tuesday, November 3: The Shanghai Stock Exchange suspends Ant Group’s IPO, just days ahead of its November 5 release. Ant Group elects to hold off on its Hong Kong release until it can resolve its regulatory issues.
Tuesday, November 3: The Trump administration halts its plans to blacklist Ant Group. While inclusion on the trade blacklist would not have stopped US investors from buying shares, it would have forced US suppliers to apply for special licenses before selling to the company.
Monday, October 26: Ant Group’s IPO is scheduled for November 5.
Monday, October 26: Ant Group announces its expected IPO prices: 68.8 yuan, or $10.26 for its Shanghai stock and 80 Hong Kong dollars, or $10.32 for its Hong Kong stock.
Thursday, October 15: The US State Department submits a proposal to add Ant Group to the Entity List, also known as the trade blacklist.
What we know about the Ant Financial IPO
Hangzhou-headquartered Ant Group planned to go public through a parallel listing on Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges. This Alibaba affiliate intended to raise as much as $34.5 billion through its dual-listing. If successful, the listing would break world records for the largest IPO to date. It was the first time a listing of its size was priced outside New York City.
Ant Group planned to evenly split its offerings between the two exchanges, with up to 1.67 billion shares up for grabs on each exchange, accounting for 11% of total outstanding shares. The New York Times suggests Ant Group could be worth as much as $310 billion. This valuation puts it on par with JPMorgan Chase — not only the biggest bank in the US but one of the largest financial institutions in the world.
The projected price for Ant Group’s Shanghai stock is 68.8 yuan, or $10.26, while its Hong Kong stock is expected to launch at 80 Hong Kong dollars, or $10.32. Shares were expected to go live on their respective exchanges on November 5 but the listing has since been canceled.
In the days leading up to its release, institutional investors vying for a slice of Ant Group were bidding as high as 120 Hong Kong dollars, or $15.50, per share in gray-market trading. This constitutes a 50% premium on the listing price and served as an indication of how high the demand was for Ant Group shares.
China suspends Ant Group’s listing
On November 2, Jack Ma, Ant Group’s billionaire co-founder, was asked to attend a meeting with the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. While the exact details of the meeting remain under wraps, multiple reports suggest that the meeting was called to serve Ant Group a regulatory warning. Ma was informed that Ant Group would need to face greater scrutiny and restrictions on its capital — similar to those imposed on other financial institutions.
On November 3, the Shanghai Stock Exchange announced that it plans to suspend Ant Group’s IPO on its exchange, just days ahead of its November 5 release — a crippling blow for what was to be the world’s biggest IPO. Following its Shanghai suspension, Ant Group elected to hold off on its Hong Kong release until it could resolve its regulatory issues.
While it’s still not entirely clear why Ant Group’s Shanghai listing was suspended, The Wall Street Journal reported on Nov 12 that China’s President Xi Jinping was personally responsible for Ant Group’s IPO suspension — potentially in response to Jack Ma’s open criticism of the country’s slow and risk-averse banking industry just weeks prior. Analysts also suggest the regulatory move was a response to Ma’s push for Ant Group to be treated as a tech company instead of a financial institution.
To amend its listing, Ant Group needs to resolve its regulatory issues and meet listing conditions for information disclosure requirements.
Following the IPO’s suspension, Alibaba — which holds 33% of Ant Group — saw its Hong Kong and NYSE shares drop by 7% and 8% respectively.
Ant Group has apologized to investors and pledges to refund the money it has collected. Analysts believe the delay may slash Ant Group’s value by up to $140 billion.
We’ll update this page as more information becomes available.
Is Ant Group still going public?
Will Ant Group take another shot at a public listing? The company hasn’t made any official statements — yet. But reports suggest a new IPO prospectus must be drawn and submitted — a process that could delay the company’s dual-listing by at least six months.
How to invest in Ant Group from the US
Although Ant Group’s stock will only be available on Chinese exchanges, US investors can still buy shares. In fact, there are four ways American investors can invest in Ant Group.
Watch our short video in which we break down what we know so far about Ant Group’s upcoming IPO and how you may be able to buy shares from the US.
1. Use an international brokerage account
Most US brokerages only offer access to US stock exchanges, like the NYSE and NASDAQ. If you plan to buy Ant Group shares, you’ll need an international brokerage account that allows you to buy and sell shares on overseas markets.
Charles Schwab, Fidelity and Interactive Brokers are all equipped to handle international trade. But before you open an account, make sure you review your broker’s commissions, exchange rates and potential taxes.
Our pick: Interactive Brokers
Interactive Brokers offers an impressive range of tools and low fees for active or professional investors.
Create watchlists, set alerts and follow news on the Trader Workstation platform
Choose from IBKR Pro or IBKR Lite depending on your investing style
All users older than 21 must meet a $20,000 liquid net worth requirement for a cash account
Another option for investors who want to purchase Ant Group stocks is to back its parent company, Alibaba. While this is a less direct investment than purchasing Ant Group stocks outright, you won’t need an international brokerage account to invest — Alibaba trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol BABA.
You can also indirectly add Ant Group stocks to your portfolio by investing in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track the stock. Once the stock hits the market, keep an eye out for ETFs that add Ant shares to their overall holdings. By purchasing these ETFs, you’ll gain some exposure to Ant Group’s stock.
The following ETFs already invest heavily in Chinese stocks, so they may be worth watching once Ant shares go live:
iShares MSCI China ETF
KraneShares CSI China Internet ETF
Renaissance Capital’s International IPO ETF
SPDR S&P China ETF
You can buy ETFs or ADRs from a domestic brokerage account.
We evaluate stock trading platforms against a range of metrics that include fees, ease of use, available securities and advanced tools to meet specific investor needs. We encourage you to compare stock platforms to find one that's best for your particular budget and goals.
Our pick for building a portfolio. We chose SoFi for this category because it offers both commission-free stocks and a free robo-advisor. That means you can open an active investing account to pick and choose companies you want to invest in, and open a robo-advisor account to help you build a portfolio and manage how much risk you take on.
Our pick for beginners. We chose Robinhood for this category because it offers commission-free trading and is easy to use. You can search for stocks by company name, and the mobile app is clean and intuitive to use.
Our pick for active traders. We picked Interactive Brokers for this category because it offers advanced tools and low fees for active investors and pros. The simpler IBKR Lite platform is aimed at less-active investors, but all users older than 21 must meet a $20,000 liquid net worth requirement for a cash account.
4. Wait for an ADR
A final option for investors looking to tuck a slice of this Chinese fintech into their portfolio is to wait for the company’s American Depositary Receipt (ADR) to reach US markets. ADRs are certificates that represent shares of foreign stock and, like ETFs, they can be purchased from a domestic brokerage account.
Should Ant Group’s ADR be released to US investors, it may arrive as a Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 ADR. Level 1 ADRs are the most risky, as they don’t require an SEC report and typically only trade on over-the-counter exchanges. Level 2 and 3 ADRs must file SEC reports, with only Level 3 ADRs being allowed to list on major US markets.
Ant Financial’s balance sheet
Ant Group is a subsidiary of Alibaba Group and was formed in 2014 to manage Alipay — a digital payments platform with over 711 million active users.
For the six months ended in June 2020, Ant reported revenue of 72.5 billion yuan — or $10.5 billion. Profits over the same time period were 21.9 billion yuan — or $3.2 billion. These figures put Ant Group’s revenue up 38% from the same period in 2019 — a promising trend for interested investors.
Ant reports that its payment app, Alipay, processed 118 trillion yuan — $17 trillion — in transactions for the 12 months ended in June 2020.
How are similar companies performing?
While no guarantee of performance, here’s how some of Ant Group’s competitors have fared:
Select a company to learn more about what they do and how their stock performs, including market capitalization, the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, price/earnings-to-growth (PEG) ratio and dividend yield. While this list includes a selection of the most well-known and popular stocks, it doesn't include every stock available.
Lakala Payment Corporation provides third-party payment and financial technology services in China. The company offers third-party payment, personal payment, merchant receipt, and related derivative services in the form of online/offline and hardware/software. It provides convenient payment, POS receipt, and cross-border payment services; and Internet finance and community e-commerce services to community residents. The company also offers receipt and convenient terminal, and payment bracelet products. It provides value-added services for various industries, such as catering, retail, insurance, education, tourism, etc. The company was founded in 2005 and is based in Beijing, China.
Market capitalization: $23600588800
P/E ratio: 25.2137
Dividend yield: 0.0337%
MoneyGram International, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, provides cross-border peer-to-peer payments and money transfer services in the United States and internationally. The company operates through two segments, Global Funds Transfer and Financial Paper Products. The Global Funds Transfer segment offers money transfer services and bill payment services through third-party agents, including retail chains, independent retailers, post offices, banks, and other financial institutions; and digital solutions, such as moneygram.com, mobile solutions, digital partners, wallets, and account deposit services. The Financial Paper Products segment provides money orders to consumers through its agents and financial institutions under the MoneyGram brand and on a private label or co-branded basis with various agents and financial institutions; and official check outsourcing services for banks and credit unions. MoneyGram International, Inc. was incorporated in 2003 and is based in Dallas, Texas.
SBI Holdings, Inc. engages in the online financial service businesses and investment activities in Japan and internationally. It operates through Financial Services Business, Asset Management Business, and Biotechnology-Related Business segments. The Financial Services Business segment offers financial products and services, including brokerage and investment banking; Internet banking; auto, cancer, fire, and earthquake, as well as life insurance; short term insurance; FX brokerage; exchange and transaction services related to crypto-assets; management of defined-contribution pension, etc.; leasing and lending services; operation of proprietary trading system; control and operation of the e-commerce settlement business; and remittance and back office support services. The Asset Management Business segment provides private equity, venture capital fund management, M&A advisory, savings bank, online securities, commercial banking, investment advisory and management, fintech support, and rating information services; real estate secured loans; and rent guarantees for rental housing, as well as generates power using renewable energy. The Biotechnology-Related Business segment develops and distributes pharmaceutical products, health foods, and cosmetics; and researches and develops antibody drugs and nucleic acid medicines in the field of cancer and immunology. The company also offers investment advisory services on crypto-asset funds; operates a fund-raising platform; acquires securities; operates as a crypto-asset broker; develops, manufactures, and sells crypto-asset mining systems; operates and develops cybersecurity systems; provides blockchain platform; invests in real estate properties; and offers healthcare services, as well as engages in the mining of digital assets. The company was formerly known as Softbank Investment Corporation and changed its name to SBI Holdings, Inc. in July 2005. SBI Holdings, Inc. was founded in 1999 and is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.
Market capitalization: $6972023808
P/E ratio: 13.236
PEG ratio: 0
Dividend yield: 0.0297%
Sea Limited engages in the digital entertainment, e-commerce, and digital financial service businesses in Southeast Asia, Latin America, rest of Asia, and internationally. It provides Garena digital entertainment platform for users to access mobile and PC online games, as well as eSports operations; and access to other entertainment content, such as livestreaming of gameplay and social features , such as user chat and online forums. The company also operates Shopee e-commerce platform, a mobile-centric marketplace that offers integrated payment and logistics infrastructure and seller services. In addition, it offers SeaMoney digital financial services to individuals and businesses, including e-wallet and payment services AirPay, ShopeePay, ShopeePayLater, and other digital financial services brands; and payment processing services for Shopee. The company was formerly known as Garena Interactive Holding Limited and changed its name to Sea Limited in April 2017. Sea Limited was founded in 2009 and is headquartered in Singapore.
Tencent Holdings Limited, an investment holding company, provides value-added services (VAS) and Online advertising services in Mainland China and internationally. The company operates through VAS, Online Advertising, FinTech and Business Services, and Others segments. It offers online games and social network services; FinTech and cloud services, and online advertising services, such as media, social, and others advertisement services. The company is also involved in production, investment, and distribution of films and television programs for third parties, as well as copyrights licensing, merchandise sales, and other activities. In addition, it develops software; develops and operates online games; and provides information technology, information system integration, asset management, online literature, and online music entertainment services. Tencent Holdings Limited company was founded in 1998 and is headquartered in Shenzhen, the People's Republic of China.
Disclaimer: The value of any investment can go up or down depending on news, trends and market conditions. We are not investment advisers, so do your own due diligence to understand the risks before you invest.
Shannon Terrell is a senior writer for Finder who has written over 400 personal finance guides. With a focus on investments and personal finance, she breaks down jargon-laden topics to help others make informed financial decisions. She studied communications and English literature at the University of Toronto.
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