Earlier in 2014, Ant Financial, the online payments affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, secured a stamp of approval from the Chinese government to set up its own private bank.
The company sold off its stakes to external investors, including China Development Bank Capital C, reports Bloomberg. China’s National Social Security Fund also joined in as a strategic investor, acquiring five per cent.
Ant Financial runs Alibaba’s Alipay, which is the most widely used third-party online payments provider in China. With its 300 million registered users and 100 million mobile users, the company claims it has overtaken rival PayPal in terms of mobile users in the second quarter of 2013.
With this injection, Ant Financial is on track to not only go head-to-head with rival Tencent — the firm had earlier received the go-ahead to start its own online bank in July — and the Juneyao Group, but also China’s banking system.
In an official statement, the company envisions its online bank as part of the larger Alibaba Group e-commerce ecosystem that will “fully leverage technology as well as Big Data analysis to better serve grass-root individual consumers and small and medium enterprises” — two groups that are regarded as under-served by the country’s state-owned financial institutions.
Zhejiang Ant Small and Micro Financial Services Group (formerly Small and Micro Financial Services Group) will have a 30 per cent ownership in the new bank.
Ant Financial now joins the likes of Xiaomi, Uber and Flipkart as the world’s most valuable private tech companies and is on its way to an IPO in 2017.