Alipay raises record $4.5 billion to fund global expansion

Beijing/Hong Kong: Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s finance affiliate has raised a record $4.5 billion from a consortium of powerful state-backed investors to bankroll its global expansion.

The new funding marked the technology industry’s single largest round of private financing and surpassed an initial target set by Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group Co., controlled by billionaire Alibaba founder Jack Ma. Chinese sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp. and an investment vehicle of China Construction Bank Corp., the country’s second largest lender, joined as new investors, it said in a statement.

Ant Financial, as the company is known, aimed to raise at least $3.5 billion at a valuation of $60 billion and is considering an initial public offering on the Shanghai stock exchange as early as this year, people familiar with the matter have said. The company runs China’s biggest online payment service, Alipay, and controls the company that manages Yu’E Bao, the nation’s largest money-market fund.

“The capital raised in Series B will allow us to invest in the infrastructure, such as cloud computing and risk control, that will underpin our long-term growth in rural and international markets,” said Eric Jing, president of Ant Financial.

Ma’s financial services company has evolved from an outsider in a tightly controlled industry to an online giant now working with the largest state players. The sovereign wealth fund and CCB Trust joins existing heavyweights including the national social welfare fund and the China Post Group. More than 200 million users buy its financial products including Yu’E Bao and Zhao Cai Bao, a platform that lets small businesses and individuals borrow from investors, the company said in August.

In recent years, Ant Financial began venturing beyond its home turf. It is a backer of Paytm, India’s largest payments provider with about 122 million users as of January and processing about 52 million transactions per month on average.

Ant Financial was said to be valued at about $45 billion after completing its first round of fundraising in 2015. It now needs capital to get into new services such as online banking, as rivals including Tencent Holdings Ltd. develop their own Internet financial products.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and China International Capital Corp. were advising Ant Financial on its funding, the people familiar said. Part of the money raised will go toward boosting biometric capabilities, including facial recognition. It intends to share that technology with Chinese and international banks.