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A Chinese fintech behemoth is getting ready to go public

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer
Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma meets Facebook founder at the China Development Forum in Beijing, China, March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Shu Zhang/Files

Ant is a misnomer for one Chinese fintech company.

Ant Financial (its official name is Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group) is the division of Chinese web giant Alibaba that owns smash-hit payments platform Alipay, and it is gearing up to go public.

Alibaba CEO Jack Ma is looking for a new funding round of $3.5 billion that would give Ant Financial a valuation of $60 billion, Bloomberg reported. And it can begin IPO procedures this year, because it has met the three consecutive years of profit that China's listing process demands.

This would be a spinoff IPO of a wonky finance-and-mobile-tech division within a Chinese tech giant. So why should it matter to you? Because Ant Financial is a quiet monster that will instantly take on global importance if and when it hits the public market.

Ant Financial owns Alipay, which launched in 2004 and isn't just the largest digital payments platform in China, but likely the largest in the world. Alipay has more than 400 million registered users, sees about 100 million transactions per day, and commands more than 70% share of the Chinese payments market. With Alipay as its biggest business, Ant Financial will soon be a challenger to public payment companies in the U.S. like PayPal and Square (SQ).

But Ant Financial also owns Yu'ebao, China's largest money-market fund. That company has more than 200 million users, and at the end of 2014 managed nearly $100 billion in assets. Last year, as China's economy struggled, Yu'ebao's fund did hit an all-time low, but the company nonetheless marks an additional gem in Ant Financial's holdings.

Ant's IPO is poised to be the biggest in China since Agricultural Bank of China sold $22.1 billion worth of stock in its 2010 offering. (Alibaba's IPO in 2014, in the U.S. market, the largest global offering ever.)

As mobile banking heats up in both the U.S. and China, and new services for international payments proliferate, experts have predicted that tech giants in each country will soon expand their business in the other, and Ant's IPO would certainly be a step in that direction. So get ready for this ant to emerge from its anthill.

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Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business and technology.

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