Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴) chairman Jack Ma (馬雲 ) regained his spot as Asia’s richest person with a higher valuation for the company’s finance affiliate ahead of a stock sale that also created a dozen new billionaires.
Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group Co (螞蟻金服), which owns payments processor Alipay, was valued at about US$50 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.
Ant Financial is considering a private placement before going public next year and details of the planned fundraising are not finalized, the sources said last week, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private.
The latest valuation for the financial subsidiary boosted Ma’s fortune by about US$10 billion to US$36.4 billion as of Friday last week in New York, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, overtaking Amazon.com Inc’s Jeff Bezos.
The new billionaires from the bigger valuation include the e-commerce giant’s chief executive Jonathan Lu (陸兆禧) and chief people officer Lucy Peng (彭蕾).
“The entire e-payments market has just started,” RHB Research Institute Sdn in Hong Kong analyst Li Yujie said. “In the future, Alipay will capture a lot of this market. When it goes public, it will produce many new billionaires.”
Lu and Peng, both cofounders of Alibaba, each have a fortune valued at about US$1.8 billion, based on their stakes in Ant Financial, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Shao Xiaofeng (邵曉鋒), who joined Alibaba in 2005 and has been its chief risk officer over the past two-and-a-half years, has a fortune of about US$1.2 billion, the index reported.
“It has got formidable room for growth,” London-based CM Research Ltd managing director Cyrus Mewawalla said. “As Alibaba expands in global markets, so could Alipay. If technology companies do well, then their owners become billionaires.”
The US$50 billion valuation for Ant Financial is about twice the minimum threshold required for the company’s IPO, according to Alibaba’s prospectus.
Ma has controlled Ant Financial, including the Alipay payments business, since spinning off the finance operations into a new company in 2011, citing foreign ownership restrictions.
Ma was ranked China’s wealthiest person on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index in August last year, based on the earlier valuation for Ant Financial. He briefly overtook Hong Kong property tycoon Li Ka-shing (李嘉誠) for the top spot in Asia in December last year.
“I was really not happy in the past three months when people said: ‘Jack Ma is the richest person of China,’” Ma said in an interview with Charlie Rose last month. “When you have US$1 billion, that is not your money — that is the trust society gives.”
Ant Financial has not hired investment banks, one of the sources said.
The company is planning an A-share sale in China, while not ruling out a dual listing, another person familiar with the matter said.
Alipay, which is similar to PayPal, has more than 800 million registered users.
Its mobile application has 190 million active users and handles 45 million transactions per day, the company said in October last year.
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