Ant Financial, the financial services affiliate connected to China's Alibaba Group (BABA), has closed a Series C mega-round totaling $14 billion, pushing its valuation up to $150 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Hangzhou-based firm owns Alipay, a global mobile payments network that serves as one of the largest non-bank lenders in China and rivals U.S. firms such as PayPal Holding Inc.'s (PYPL) Venmo and Jack Dorsey's Square Inc. (SQ). Since its latest $4.5 billion funding round in April 2016, in which Ant Financial was valued at $60 billion, the business has boosted its revenue and gained market share as it expands its offerings for both consumers and merchant clients.
The latest funding marks the first time that US investors have been able to purchase a stake in the company, with dollar financing from firms like Silver Lake and General Atlantic. Terms of the latest funding are also unique as they bar investors from investing in rivals like startups backed by Chinese Internet giants JD.com Inc. (JD) and Tencent Holdings. The funds will go toward extending Ant's international presence outside of its core Chinese market, where it claims to serve 500 million consumers and offers digital banking and investment services through Alipay. It will also contribute to the development of new technology such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and computing capabilities.
A Global Brick-and-Mortar Strategy
Beefing up Ant Financial is part BABA's larger strategy to ramp its competition against Seattle-based e-commerce and cloud computing giant Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN). Alipay has been critical in driving Alibaba’s core business, as its presence is increasingly vital for the company's global brick-and-mortar strategy as it doubles down on the growing number of Chinese tourists worldwide. Alibaba, which spun off Ant before its initial public offering (IPO) in the U.S. in 2014, recently took up an option to own 33% of the fintech business.
Ant itself has long been rumored to be prepping for a public listing, as its $1.4 billion in profit posted over the past year makes it a prime candidate to take the leap. It's latest funding round dwarfs that of some of the largest IPOs in one fell swoop. (See also: Buy Alibaba, Not Amazon: Short-Seller Citron.)