A team of executives from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s banking and payments department recently visited Silicon Valley to look for potential investments. The visit is also said to have been made with an eye upon Ant’s initial public offering which is expected to come in 2017.
Ant Financial, an affiliate company of Alibaba Group, serves more than 450 million customers and provides services ranging across wealth management and insurance to credit checks and consumer loans. It was launched in 2004 with a PayPal-like service called Alipay that processes transactions for Alibaba’s online retail business.
According to Lucy Peng, Co-founder of Alibaba, an IPO will give Ant an opportunity to tell its story, provide transparency to investors and raise money for acquisitions. In her first interview with the international media, Peng said many people see Ant as a just a payments company while it is much more than that.
This is probably our fault and perhaps we should be better at letting everyone know what Ant actually does. Payments is just the tip of the iceberg. What’s big is under the water.
Ant’s target is the 2.5 billion people around the world who do not access to banks or any others institutions to save or borrow money. This population mainly belongs to Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Currently, the company is researching Africa and Latin America.
Earlier in 2016, the company also collaborated with Uber to let Chinese tourists pay for rides through Alipay in more than 400 cities. The company also debuted in U.S. market in September by investing in an eye-scan startup called EyeVerify Inc.
Peng elaborated by saying that Ant visited a lot of companies to look at how they run their businesses.
The company hasn’t divulged much information upon how much investment it is seeking through an IPO.
On talking about a visit to California for similar purpose in 2012, Peng said that four years ago the company was exclusively a payments company and now there is a lot more to it.
It’s hard for us to draw a clear picture of what we’ll look like in five years. However, one thing we’re sure is that our mission will remain the same: providing services for the underserved and underbanked.
While Ant is working hard upon changing its image from being a mere payment company to a much bigger establishment, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Alibaba over its accounting practices to make sure they are not violating any federal laws. It is especially investigating the data reported from Alibaba’s biggest shopping day and how it consolidated the results from its numerous affiliate companies.