A “fear of missing out” is prompting a scramble to take part in Ant Group’s upcoming initial public offering in Hong Kong and Shanghai, which is shaping up to be one of the world’s largest ever equity raisings.
The Chinese technology company’s dual offering could come as early as next month. Ant should face the Hong Kong listing committee by the middle of next week, people familiar with the matter said, after winning approval from regulators in Shanghai last week. The company is expected to offer at least 10 per cent of its shares and secure an overall market valuation of between $200bn and $300bn.
Nick Xiao, chief executive of Chinese wealth manager Hywin Wealth’s international business in Hong Kong, said he had seen a surge in “Fomo-related” investor demand, including to buy shares from current owners before the deal. “Everyone wants some Ant shares, it is the talk of the town,” Mr Xiao said.
Unlike many other deals, Mr Xiao said, customers did not mind what the valuation was. One client intended to put in $200m at the going price, he added.
Other Hong Kong-based brokers reported strong appetite. One wealth manager, which declined to be named, said it was offering loans to clients to increase their investment in the offering.
Some existing Ant investors are also keen to take part. Ant polled its shareholders late this summer to see if they wanted to sell, hold or buy during the listing. At least one international hedge fund opted to subscribe for more shares, according to a person familiar with the fund.
“Demand is very high. Nothing is guaranteed, we’re waiting to hear if we get allocated any shares,” the person said. “All we can do is sit and wait patiently.”
Ant dominates mobile payments in China, the gateway for bringing its 711m monthly users into its Alipay app, which has become a digital supermarket of financial products. Users can buy on credit, invest in mutual funds, and find insurance through established groups.
Arun George, an analyst who writes on research platform Smartkarma, estimates Ant is worth $254bn based on a sum-of-the-parts valuation of the group’s business lines. Analysts at Bank of America even valued Ant at up to $318bn, based on a forward price-to-earnings multiple — a common valuation measure — of about 45, based on expected 2021 profits.
Howard Yu, professor of management and innovation at IMD Business School in Switzerland and Singapore, said even a valuation of $250bn looked “cheap”.
Tencent, another Chinese technology giant with a fast-growing payments business, trades at about 40 times earnings. Applying the same multiple to Ant, Prof Yu said, implied a $240bn valuation, and that was assuming no profit growth in the second half of the year.
Such a scenario was “almost impossible” given the company’s pace of growth, he added. Ant’s profit for the first half exceeded the full-year total for 2019.