China’s Ant Group reportedly plans to create a new consumer finance company which would allow the firm to cement its base in the country’s online lending industry. Meanwhile, Ant — which Chinese giant Alibaba Group Holding owns a 33-percent stake in — is gearing up for an initial public offering and has made a preliminary IPO filing with Chinese regulators.
Bloomberg News said Ant is working on the consumer finance project with Nanyang Commercial Bank, China TransInfo Technology Corp. and Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. The new consumer finance platform would be incorporated in Chongqing, a Chinese megacity.
It would have a registered capital of 8 billion yuan ($1.2 billion), Bloomberg reported. Under China’s rules, consumer finance companies are allowed to lend out 10 times their capital. This would be a great leap forward for Ant, which has micro-loan companies in Chongqing that operate its Huabei and Jiebei platforms.
In addition, Ant already offers its Alipay payments app and money market funds and provides credit scoring.
Reuters reported that Ant’s move to set up a consumer finance platform can be seen in the wider context of China’s worsening relations with the U.S. Ant Group and other of China’s tech giants — including Tencent and Bytedance — are looking to the home market as U.S. scrutiny of them grows.
Ant has already gotten a range of financial licenses in China covering payments, online banking, insurance and micro lending. Alibaba owns one-third of Ant, Reuters reported.
Ant was launched in 2014 by Alibaba Founder Jack Ma, whose personal net worth is over $42 billion, making him the world’s 17th richest person, according to Forbes.
The huge growth by Ant Group has gained the scrutiny of regulators in China as well. Ant was forced to reduce the size of its money market fund, which by 2019 had ballooned to more than $168 billion with 588 million different investors.
Now, Ant’s IPO could be one of the biggest in history.
“Becoming a public company will enhance transparency to our stakeholders, including customers, business partners, employees, shareholders and regulators,” Ant Group Executive Chairman Eric Jing has said.