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Here's why Ant Financial's $4.5 billion round is a big deal

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

Earlier this month, reports indicated that Ant Financial was seeking a new funding round of $3.5 billion or higher as it prepares to go public. On Wednesday, the company got what it wanted: Ant has scored $4.5 billion, the largest private funding round for an Internet company ever. It also makes Alibaba CEO Jack Ma the richest man in Asia.

The round gives Ant Financial a valuation of $60 billion, which was reportedly Ma's target before preparing to spin off Ant for a public offering.

So, why the excitement around this Ant?

The company, whose full name is Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group, is the finance division of Alibaba, and it owns Alipay—that is the key.

Alipay is China's largest digital payments platform. It launched in 2004 and has ballooned to more than 400 million users, who turn to Alipay for 100 million transactions per day. Ant Financial also owns Yu'ebao, China's largest money-market fund, which has more than 200 million customers.

Next up, Ma and Alibaba will prepare to bring Ant public on the Shanghai exchange in 2017. The IPO is expected to be the biggest in China since Agricultural Bank of China sold $22.1 billion worth of stock in its 2010 offering.

Alibaba's ability to raise such a whopping funding round for Ant lends credence to the popular notion that while private tech "unicorns" are struggling in the U.S., they are galloping along happily overseas. Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone-maker, enjoys a $46 billion valuation. Didi Kuaidi, the result of a merger last year between Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, has been valued at $25 billion.

With its new funding, Ant climbs atop them both.

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

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