Through a private funding round that could make Ant Financial the world’s biggest unicorn, the Chinese financial firm — an affiliate of Alibaba — is reportedly seeking to raise $9 billion. The fresh investment could lead to a valuation of nearly $150 billion for Ant, The Wall Street Journalreported.
According to people familiar with the matter, Ant Financial has been in discussions with potential investors. Demand for shares in the company, which owns Alipay, have been strong of late. The funding round comes as the company is eyeing an initial public offering (IPO) that could take place as early as this year. In the event that Ant accrues a valuation over $100 billion, the company could be valued higher than BlackRock or Goldman Sachs.
The latest estimates for the round were up from a previous $5 billion equity funding target that could have brought Ant’s valuation to $100 billion, according to February reports. Estimates aside, the fundraising would bring the financial services company, which is still a third owned by the Alibaba Group, one step closer to its long-anticipated IPO by updating its most current valuation. Ant Financial was last valued at around $60 billion.
Ant has no solid or announced IPO plan, and, as of yet, the company provided no comment on the rumored upcoming fundraising round. The investments reportedly underway are widely perceived as pre-IPO fundraising, which has become common among popular Chinese firms.
The round also comes as the market in China for such funding is extremely active. Chinese eCommerce firm JD.com, for example, is raising funds for its logistics unit with a target of around $2 billion.
“The overall China (eCommerce) market is growing, and Ant’s market share is very high,” Hao Hong, head of research at brokerage BOCOM International, said. “So, even at a time like this, if Ant were to target $5 billion, that will not be a problem,” referring to the global stock market turmoil that has also hit Chinese equities.