Today, Ant is aiming for a valuation of $200b to $300b in a dual-listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai, although meetings with investors are still ongoing. It still dominates mobile payments in China, but instead of competing with the financial sector, it has become a digital supermarket of others’ offerings, letting users buy on credit, invest in mutual funds, and find insurance through established players. It has even changed its name, from Ant Financial to Ant Group, to emphasize that it is a tech, rather than a financial services, company.
Mr Dai said that, while payments is the conduit that draws users into Ant’s ecosystem of other offerings, it is unprofitable as a standalone business line. Partly that is because regulators in 2017 started reducing the amount of unused cash held in user accounts that payments’ groups could invest for their own benefit, an important source of interest income, from 100 per cent to zero. The reduction in payments’ share of Ant’s revenue — from 55 per cent in 2017 to 36 per cent in the first half of the year — has also helped strengthen Ant’s bottom line.