April 10, 2018 / 12:26 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 2-China's Ant Financial aims for $9 bln in new funding - WSJ

April 10 (Reuters) - Chinese billionaire Jack Ma's online payments business Ant Financial now plans to raise $9 billion in its next planned round of funding, potentially valuing the company at $150 billion ahead of an expected stock market flotation, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The fundraising figure is almost double the $5 billion figure given to Reuters by people familiar with the matter in February and would further raise the profile of a hotly anticipated initial public offering of the Alibaba spinoff.

Shares in Alibaba, which still holds a 33 percent stake in Ant Financial, rose about 3 percent in premarket trading.

A $150 billion valuation would make it one of the biggest public flotations ever, dwarfing this year's launch of Spotify and Dropbox and comparing to the $104 billion float of Facebook six years ago or Alibaba's own $168 billion valuation in 2014.

The WSJ said citing people familiar with the matter that the owner of Alipay was expected to list on both domestic and overseas exchanges, in line with previous speculation that it would list in both Hong Kong and New York.

Ant Financial, which has not set a timetable for the IPO or indicated a preferred venue, declined to comment. (on.wsj.com/2IGHLdI)

Privately placed funding rounds ahead of IPOs are a commonly used tactic by sought-after Chinese companies to establish high valuations.

Appetite among U.S. investors has been strong this year for tech sector debuts by Dropbox, Spotify and Zscaler, easing concerns raised by the fall in Snap Inc's shares last year.

"Part of the increase in valuation might be because the new investors have received extra features," said Jay Ritter, an IPO expert and professor at the University of Florida.

"But part of the increase is because the company is continuing to live up to expectations, and is becoming an even more important player in China's mobile payment space."

Alibaba spun out Alipay in 2011 and rebranded the payment processor into Ant Financial three years later. After becoming a dominant payments company in China, Ant Financial focused on international markets by buying a stake in Indian payment firm Paytm and Pakistan-based Telenor Microfinance Bank.

Its attempt to buy U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International was blocked at the start of this year by U.S. officials on national security grounds, a blow to Jack Ma who had promised President Donald Trump that he would create 1 million U.S. jobs.

Alibaba was also not immediately available for comment. (Reporting by Parikshit Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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