Ant Group gets China’s nod for HK IPO plan

Although CSRC has given the greenlight, Ant still has to complete its registration for the Shanghai leg of the IPO

HONG KONG • Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co Ltd won a key approval from the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) for its listing in Hong Kong, paving the way for what could be the world’s biggest IPO, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Chinese regulator has given Ant a green light to seek a listing hearing with Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd, the source said, requesting not to be identified because the matter is private. A Hong Kong hearing could happen soon, the source added.

Ant still has to complete its registration for the Shanghai leg of the IPO. The Shanghai exchange website shows that Ant submitted an application for a listing on the tech-focused STAR board on Sept 22. The China securities watchdog has 20 working days to accept or reject the registration.

The exchange itself has already approved the listing.

A representative for Ant declined to comment, while a representative for CSRC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The International Financing Review reported earlier on the CSRC approval.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, which owns a third of Ant after spinning out the finance unit almost a decade ago, climbed 1.1% in Hong Kong yesterday to HK$297.20 (RM178.32). The benchmark index rose 0.6%.

The nod from China’s securities watchdog for the Hong Kong sale came later than expected, stirring speculation that Ant’s IPO was running into roadblocks. The company could raise about US$35 billion (RM143.5 billion) from the dual listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai at a valuation of at least US$280 billion, people have said.

Ant Group’s IPO could surpass Saudi Aramco’s record of US$29 billion sale last year, marking a win for the Hong Kong stock exchange that lost many of China’s tech stars to US listings.

Ant won’t seek cornerstone investors for Hong Kong, but will invite big backers for its Shanghai sale to mitigate price fluctuations, people familiar have said. The Hangzhou-based firm is planning to issue new stock equal to about 11% to 15% of its outstanding shares and split the float evenly between Hong Kong and Shanghai. — Bloomberg