Investors outside China are helping to drive up the valuation of billionaire
U.S.-based private equity firms General Atlantic and
are planning to invest in Hangzhou-based Ant Financial Services Group, according to people familiar with the matter.
Ant, one of China’s largest and most valuable private companies, is in the process of raising at least $9 billion from local and foreign investors, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week. A capital raise of that magnitude would represent one of the single-largest private fundraisings by any company in years.
Other global investors in talks to buy shares of Ant or considering investments include hedge fund Tiger Global Management LLC and private-equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC, people familiar with the discussions said.
It isn’t clear how much capital the firms are likely to commit. Some investors are looking to buy at least $200 million worth of shares, according to a person familiar with the talks. Private-equity firms have increasingly been taking stakes in late-stage startups as companies wait longer to go public.
The latest funding round could value Ant—a business carved out of Mr. Ma’s e-commerce giant
seven years ago—at close to $150 billion, the Journal has reported.
That would make Ant the world’s most valuable unicorn, a term used to describe private companies valued at over $1 billion. The company owns Alipay, China’s biggest mobile payments network and is the country’s largest non-bank lender. Ant also has a wealth-management business that oversees the world’s largest money-market fund, and a credit-scoring business. It earned pre-tax profit of around $2 billion last year.
Ant’s previous fundraising in 2016 valued the company at around $60 billion and took money from Chinese investors including sovereign-wealth fund China Investment Corp. and state lenders. The current round, which is still ongoing, will include U.S. and other foreign investors, according to people familiar with the matter.
Singapore’s state investment firm Temasek Holdings Pte. Ltd. is also planning to invest, one of the people said.
Investors are piling in ahead of a widely anticipated initial public offering of Ant that some market participants expect to happen as soon as the second half of this year. Ant is likely to list on both domestic and foreign exchanges, people familiar with the company’s plans have said.
A spokesman for Ant said this week that the company doesn’t comment on “market rumors.”
Ant was founded and is controlled by Mr. Ma, who also co-founded Alibaba. The Chinese e-commerce giant’s 2014 initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange raised a record $25 billion. Alibaba is now one of the world’s most valuable technology companies, and a transaction it announced in February will give it a one-third stake with Ant later this year.
—P.R. Venkat contributed to this story.