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Editorial : As a financial centre, HK can learn from Ant

【明報專訊】Alibaba's Ant Group ("Ant") is raising over $267 billion in its simultaneous offerings on the mainland and in Hong Kong, making it the world's largest IPO. Ant combines a payment platform, digital wallet, financial intermediary and lending and insurance services into one, with advantages in big data and artificial intelligence. The market valuation of over $3 trillion by major banks not only reflects that international capital knows no boundaries in its pursuit of profits, but also highlights Hong Kong's role as a window of China. The thresholds for foreign investors in the mainland market allow Hong Kong to continue to play its role for international financing. As long as the mainland is thriving and Hong Kong's uniqueness of "one country, two systems" is maintained, Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre will remain solid.

As the world's largest financial technology "unicorn", Ant's development can be traced back to the establishment of Alipay by Alibaba in 2004. At first Alipay provided only a guaranteed transaction mechanism for buyers and sellers on the Taobao website. However, as its business continued to develop, the company changed its name to Ant Financial and to Ant Group this year. Within a short span of ten years or so, Ant has grown into a giant company with revenues exceeding $100 billion and a net profit margin as high as 30% annually. This is not only a miracle in the history of enterprises, but also a testimony to the strong growth of the new economy on the mainland.

Ant started out with e-payments. In recent years, the focus has been on the digital finance business, which accounted for over 60% of revenue in the first half of this year. Today, Ant has become the leading e-payment and digital financial platform in China, covering every aspect of users' daily lives as a super-hybrid. To call it simply "China PayPal" is to severely underestimate the company's business and capabilities, showing a lack of understanding of China's new economy.

Having the mainland at its back and looking globally at the same time has always been how Hong Kong has developed. This has never changed. As China's window to the outside world, Hong Kong serves different purposes at different times. The mainland's financial markets are far less open to the outside world than Hong Kong's. For mainland enterprises, Hong Kong has the advantage of "one country, two systems" and is able to link with the international community better than other mainland cities. The simultaneous listings of Ant in Hong Kong and Shanghai underline the irreplaceable role and functions of Hong Kong.

The success of Ant bears testimony to the potential of the new economy, an area in which Hong Kong is obviously lagging behind. Ant stresses that the innovative business will be the focus of its future development. "AntChain", its blockchain solution platform launched earlier, is the latest example. The group believes that the introduction of digital currency on the mainland will present more opportunities for business innovation to itself. Like Ant, Hong Kong needs to keep innovating and progressing. It needs to strive to catch up with the times, promote socio-economic transformation and catch up with the pace of new economic development on the mainland.

明報社評2020.10.28:金融中心靠一國兩制 香港創新求進學螞蟻

阿里巴巴旗下螞蟻集團(下稱螞蟻)在內地與香港同步招股,集資總額超過2670億元,成為全球最大規模IPO。螞蟻集支付平台、電子錢包、理財中介、借貸與保險服務於一身,兼具大數據和人工智能優勢,大行估計市值超過3萬億元,反映國際資本逐利無疆界,同時亦突顯香港作為國家窗口的角色。內地市場對外國投資者的門檻,讓香港可以繼續發揮國際融資作用,只要內地興旺發展、香港「一國兩制」獨特性得到保持,香港國際金融中心地位仍然鞏固。

螞蟻作為全球最大金融科技「獨角獸」,發展歷史可追溯到2004年阿里巴巴設立支付寶。支付寶的出現,最初只為淘寶網上買賣雙方提供擔保交易機制,其後業務不斷發展,公司易名螞蟻金服,今年再改名為螞蟻集團。短短10多年,螞蟻發展成為一間營收突破千億元大關的巨頭,一年淨利潤率高達三成,既是企業史上的一個奇蹟,同時亦見證了內地新經濟的茁壯成長。

螞蟻以電子支付起家,近年則以數碼金融業務為發展重點,今年上半年相關收入佔比已升到超過六成。時至今日,螞蟻已成中國電子支付和數碼金融平台龍頭,服務涵蓋用戶日常生活各方面,成為一個超級混合體,簡單視之為「中國PayPal」,乃是嚴重低估公司業務和實力,並對內地新經濟缺乏了解。

背靠內地面向國際,一直是香港發展之道,從未改變。香港作為國家對外窗口,不同時期有不同作用。內地金融市場對外開放程度,遠遠未及香港,對內地企業而言,香港有一國兩制優勢,比起內地其他城市,更能與國際接軌,螞蟻同步在滬港上市招股,突顯香港仍具有不可替代的角色和作用。

螞蟻的成功,見證了新經濟的潛力,香港在這方面明顯落後。螞蟻強調創新業務是未來發展重點,早前推出的區塊鏈解決方案平台螞蟻鏈,正是最新例子,集團相信,內地推出數碼貨幣,將為集團帶來更多業務創新機會。香港需要像螞蟻般不斷創新求進,努力追上時勢,推動社會經濟轉型,趕上內地新經濟發展步伐。

■Glossary

生字

simultaneous : happening or done at the same time as sth else

IPO : initial public offering (the act of selling shares in a company for the first time)

intermediary : a person or an organisation that helps other people or organisations to make an agreement by being a means of communication between them

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