Ant Group is still capable of clinching the world’s largest IPO â even as Chinese regulatory hurdles weigh heavily on the financial technology giant, says one of the country’s major investors.
Liu Qiang, vice president of Fosun Technology and Financial Group, which owns a small stake in Ant Group, said the fintech giant’s underlying technology and access to an ecosystem of underserved customers remains a strong investment proposition.
“I still believe they can create the record,” Liu, who is also deputy chairman of Hani Securities, told CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal on Tuesday. He was speaking as part of CNBC’s annual East Tech West conference, which is being held this year both remotely and on the ground in the Nansha district of Guangzhou, China.
Increased financial regulation
Ant Group’s highly-anticipated $ 34.5 billion dual listing was abruptly suspended on Nov. 3 after its leaders, including controller Jack Ma, were summoned and interviewed by Chinese regulators. Days later, authorities emphasized the need to further regulate the country’s fintech industry, including microlending.
Liu welcomed the regulatory move, noting that financial products that are both online and offline ought to be regulated. Indeed, he said clampdowns can force players to “make more effort to educate” users and such moves previously led “investors to get more sophisticated and invest more.”
Ant Group, for its part, can handle that pressure, said Liu.
He noted that it’s “one of the few” companies that can successfully manage “all three dimensions” required of a financial technology company: capital flow, data flow, and commerce flow. However, he declined to put a price on any subsequent listing.
“I can’t predict how much they can raise. That depends on the capital markets,” he said.
A post-Covid opportunity
The postponement comes against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen a rapid embrace of financial technology services, especially in China. Ant Group is poised to take advantage of that uptick with its large ecosystem of small merchant customers, said Liu.
Already, China is one of the world’s leading adopters of financial technology. Today, the country is home to a $ 29 trillion mobile payments markets, and is poised to become the world’s first cashless society, according to a fintech report by the South China Morning Post.
Any post-Covid recovery efforts will only accelerate that, said Liu, who predicted an annual growth rate of 50% for the industry over the next five years.
However, further development in the fintech industry will also likely be met with additional regulation, Liu noted.
“I think the authorities will keep looking at the market and give directions for development,” he said.