【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.
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