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Alibaba financial affiliate Ant raises $4.5 bn

Alibaba/AFP

Alibaba/AFP

SHANGHAI (AFP) – The financial services affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has raised $4.5 billion in funding, it said on Tuesday, calling it the largest single private placement by an Internet company.

The move values Ant Financial Services Group at roughly $60 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported, quoting people familiar with the situation. Previous media reports had said the company aimed to raise $3.5 billion.

Investors included a unit of China’s sovereign wealth fund and a subsidiary of China Construction Bank, one of the country’s Big Four lenders, according to a statement.

Ant Financial – which is reportedly planning to go public – said it would use the funds for global expansion and boosting its services to China’s rural areas.

“The capital raised in series B will allow us to invest in the infrastructure, such as cloud computing and risk control, that will underpin our long-term growth in rural and international markets,” Eric Jing, president of Ant Financial, said in the statement.

Ant Financial – set up in 2014 to consolidate Alibaba’s finance-related businesses into a single entity — includes online payments arm Alipay, which is estimated to hold 80 percent of the sector in China.

It also includes an investment platform and an online bank, which aims to support small businesses and entrepreneurs, a key theme for Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

In e-commerce, Alibaba’s Taobao platform is estimated to have more than 90 percent of the consumer-to-consumer market in China, while its Tmall platform is believed to command more than half of business-to-consumer transactions.

But the group is seeking to grow beyond its traditional online sales business, diversifying into such areas as sports and entertainment.

Alibaba listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014, raising $25 billion in the world’s biggest initial public offering.

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Founder Ma, who is also executive chairman, is now China’s second richest person with net worth of $29 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires.

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