Ant Group's valuation seen dropping to $143 billion on crackdown

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – Ant Group’s valuation may be cut further under new measures proposed by China to curb market concentration in its online payments market, according to new estimates from Bloomberg Intelligence.

Jack Ma’s fintech giant may be worth less than 700 billion yuan (S$143 billion) under the draft proposals, which could reduce the value of Ant’s Alipay service by half, according to senior analyst Francis Chan. Earlier this month, Mr Chan lowered his Ant valuation to less than 1 trillion yuan, from about 1.44 trillion yuan.

“Ant Group’s valuation may plunge further if its payment unit is forced to break up due to potential anti-trust probes by China’s central bank,” Mr Chan wrote in a research note.

The revised estimate for Ant is a far cry from valuations that ran as high as $320 billion before the company was forced to scrap its record initial public offering in November. China’s crackdown forced Mr Ma’s firm to withdraw the US$35 billion (S$46.3 billion) IPO just days before its planned listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

China’s central bank said on Wednesday that any non-bank payment company with half the market share for online transactions, or two entities with a combined two-thirds share could be subject to antitrust probes.

If a monopoly is confirmed, the central bank can suggest the cabinet impose restrictive measures including breaking up the entity by its business type. Firms already with payment licenses would have a one-year grace period to comply with the new rules, the central bank said.

Alipay, with about 1 billion users, controls 55 per cent of the mobile payments market. A break up could reduce its 600 billion yuan valuation in half, Chan said, adding it’s questionable whether Ant can relaunch its IPO this year.

Alibaba Group Holding, which holds a stake in Ant, fell for a second day in Hong Kong, dropping 2.9 per cent at 9:57am. The shares jumped 8.5 per cent on Wednesday after Mr Ma emerged in public for the first time since China began clamping down on his businesses, ending several months of speculation over his whereabouts.

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