HONG KONG (REUTERS) – China’s Ant Group has won approval from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange for the offshore leg of its initial public offering (IPO), two sources said, clearing the last key regulatory hurdle to launch its dual-listing expected to be worth about US$35 billion (S$47.5 billion).
Backed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, Ant passed the hearing with the exchange’s Listing Committee on Monday (Oct 19), the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information is not public.
The fintech company plans to list simultaneously in Hong Kong and on Shanghai’s Star Market in the coming weeks, sources said, in what could be the world’s largest IPO, surpassing the record set by oil giant Saudi Aramco’s US$29.4 billion float last December.
Ant and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The move comes one month after Ant won approval from the Shanghai Stock Exchange for the domestic leg of the dual listing.
The company also looks to receive the final nod from China’s top securities regulator for its Star IPO this week, said one of the people.
The Hong Kong meeting was a regularly scheduled committee hearing, during which the IPOs of several companies were discussed and approved.
The 28-strong committee is made up of a mix of bankers, lawyers, accountants and investors, and its approval is essential for any IPO candidate.
Ant plans to start a brief pre-marketing period this week before opening order books next week, one of the sources said.
Its shares are likely to start trading “a few days” after the Nov 3 US presidential election, said the person.
After receiving initial feedback from potential investors, Ant looks to increase its offering size to US$35 billion from up to US$30 billion, targeting a valuation of about US$250 billion or more, Reuters has reported.
Ant originally aimed to meet Hong Kong’s bourse on Sept 24 and launch the IPO after the week-long Chinese National Day holiday that ended on Oct 8, sources previously told Reuters.
Last week, sources said the China Securities Regulatory Commission was probing a potential conflict of interest in the planned listing, delaying approval.
The regulator was looking into the role of Alipay, Ant’s flagship payment platform, as retail investors’ only third-party channel to buy into five Chinese funds investing in the IPO.
Ant aims to sell 10 per cent to 15 per cent of its enlarged share capital in the IPO, split evenly between Hong Kong and Shanghai. It does not plan to offer a cornerstone tranche in Hong Kong in anticipation of strong demand from institutional investors.