The Jack Ma -controlled Ant Group finally sets in motion what the market has been anticipating for years. The financial services and payments behemoth said Monday that it has kickstarted the process of a concurrent initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Nasdaq-style Star Market.
Ant’s choice of the HKSE and Star Market follows the latest trend of Chinese tech firms trading closer to home as the cities make it easier for high-risk, innovation-driven firms to access funding. The Star exchange, first unveiled by President Xi Jinping, debuted last year as Xi called for China to be technologically independent.
The firm recently dropped its old brand “Ant Financial” for “Ant Group” to scale back its focus on in-house financial products. Indeed, a recent filing from Alibaba, which holds 33% in Ant, showed that about half of Ant’s 2019 revenues came from technological infrastructure it provided to enterprise clients rather than proprietary financial products.
Alipay, which now claims 1.3 billion users around the world, has over the years expanded from a mere payments app into an online gateway to third-party financial products such as micro-loans and insurance. The app also supports a slew of day-to-day services like Starbucks membership and telemedicine, all powered by mini-apps, just like WeChat has grown itself from a messenger into an all-in-one service platform.
African fintechs are potentially few years away from listing on a stock exchange and it remains largely unknown if they will list on exchanges in Africa or outside Africa like Jumia.