Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, which runs the Alipay payments service, is “closer to an initial public offering ” but has yet to set a timetable despite reports of a listing in 2017, a person close to the situation told CNBC.
Numerous reports across the media said Ant Financial’s flotation has been pushed back from 2016 to 2017. However, the person close to the situation who asked to be kept anonymous because of the sensitivity of the situation said there had been no initial timeline in the first place as the company was waiting in a long line of firms for approval from Chinese regulators.
Ant Financial runs China’s biggest payments service, Alipay, which has a total of 450 million active users and processes 170 million transactions per day.
The company is the world’s second-most valuable private technology firm behind Uber after it raised $4.5 billion earlier this year valuing it at around $60 billion. Uber is currently valued at around $62.5 billion-$65 billion.
Earlier reports said that certain regulation was holding back Ant Financial’s listing. One of those was a rule by Chinese authorities that imposes restrictions on listings by companies that have more than 200 existing shareholders. Ant Financial offers stock options to employees which can be converted into shares when the company lists or sold. But these employees did not count as shareholders, the person said, adding that Ant Financial was in “full compliance” with Chinese regulation.
Ant Financial is one of the most hotly-anticipated IPOs in the technology space. It has been focusing on growing its footprint beyond China and earlier this year announced its expansion into Europe. Instead of focusing on taking customers away from the likes of Apple Pay, Ant Financial is looking to help Chinese tourists make purchases abroad using its platform. Chinese tourists spent over $215 billion overseas last year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).