Ant Financial, the Alibaba affiliate that runs Alipay and other financial services in China, has announced a truly huge round of funding today. The company said it has completed its Series B, which weighs in at a staggering $4.5 billion.
The Wall Street Journal previously reported that the company was raising new funding at a valuation of up to $60 billion, and we understand this is the valuation for the deal. Last year’s undisclosed Series A valued the firm at $45-50 billion.
This round is the largest investment in a tech company to date, surpassing the $3 billion that Didi Kuaidi, China’s homegrown rival to Uber, brought in from investors last summer by some margin. No ordinary round of financing, for sure, but then again Ant Financial is hardly a normal company by any stretch of the definition.
Ant Financial was created in December 2014 when it was spun out of Alibaba before the e-commerce giant went public in the U.S. with a record IPO in September 2014. The company has very much piggy-backed on Alibaba’s vast e-commerce empire — which pulled in $5.3 billion in revenue during the last quarter of business — since then.
It offers a range of financial services, most prominent of which is Alipay — China’s most popular online payment service, used to process payments on Alibaba’s sites — but its portfolio also includes a micro-loans program and Alibaba’s digital bank, MyBank.
All told, it claims to reach 450 million users, most of whom likely interact with Alipay, but Ant Financial puts focus on enabling people in remote areas who have limited access to traditional financial services. It says its “payment, insurance and wealth management services” reach 140 million people in rural China, while MyBank has dished out 20 million loans to SMEs and entrepreneurs.
Beyond China, Ant Financial has moved into India via its investment in Paytm, an e-commerce and payments player that Alibaba has also invested in. Ant Financial said that at the turn of 2016, Paytm had 122 million users and was processing 52 million transactions a month, a number that has grown 230 percent year-on-year.
Ant Financial is tipped to go public in the not-too-distant future. A company representative declined our questions on when and where an IPO might take place, but vice president Cyril Han told the Wall Street Journal that he hopes to list “in both domestic and offshore stock exchanges” in the future.
This could be the last chance for investors to get in on the action privately, so it’s notable that Ant Financial summoned some big names with plenty of strategic value for this record round. Sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp (CIC) and CCB Trust, a subsidiary of China Construction Bank, joined as new investors, while insurance firms, including China Life, China Post Group, China Development Bank Capital and Primavera Capital Group returned as existing backers.
Ant Financial said that it will work with CIC to expand its footprint overseas “to provide equal access to financial services globally.” You can bet that this growth will be in tandem with Alibaba, which is increasing looking at new growth opportunities outside of China.