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Alibaba : Ant Speeds Ahead with Record IPO After Investor Orders Pour In -- Update

10/28/2020 | 10:33pm EST

By Jing Yang and Joanne Chiu

Ant Group Co. stopped collecting orders from institutional buyers for the Hong Kong leg of its record initial public offering on Wednesday, a day ahead of schedule, after meeting strong demand from investors, according to people familiar with the matter.

The financial-technology behemoth, which is part-owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., is set to raise at least $34.4 billion through dual listings in Shanghai and Hong Kong, selling about $17.2 billion of stock in each market.

The deal caps a busy year for China's equity capital markets and reflects Chinese companies' increasing pivot toward home for primary or secondary listings amid heightened tensions with the U.S.

The portion of the Hong Kong deal reserved for large investors, which will be at least 90% of the total, has been heavily oversubscribed, the people said. Order books were closed at 5 p.m. local time in Hong Kong, London and New York.

Haiyan Li-Labbé, a fund manager with France's Carmignac Gestion SA, which managed EUR34 billion as of the end of September, said the firm is very eager to be a long-term investor in Ant. "Ant is an interesting opportunity among fintech companies world-wide," she said.

Investors have poured funds into Hong Kong as they scrambled for a slice of this and other share deals, forcing the city's de facto central bank to intervene repeatedly to keep the local currency stable. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority sold $600 million of Hong Kong dollars on Wednesday to defend the territory's peg to the U.S. dollar. Since the start of September it has intervened more than 40 times, spending around $33 billion.

Buoyed by Ant's bumper IPO, Alibaba's stock has hit all-time highs, closing at $317.14 apiece on Tuesday in New York and HK$307.40 on Wednesday in Hong Kong. Both prices are record closing highs.

While IPOs in Shanghai and Shenzhen typically take 12 to 24 months to complete, Ant has moved much more quickly. It said on July 20 it planned to go public, lodged a formal application about one month later, and its shares will start trading on Nov. 5.

In the process, the company has skipped a step from a typical Hong Kong IPO, which would usually start with a price range. Instead, Ant fixed the price before taking orders.

Ant set prices for its shares late Monday and opened the Hong Kong order book that evening. Some investors were informed the next morning the book-building process, already short by typical IPO standards, would be cut short by one day, these investors said.

Ant is also taking orders from individual investors in Hong Kong till Friday. Dennis Wu, senior partner at Futu Securities, a Chinese online brokerage, said his firm had received a record number of orders from individual investors seeking to buy Ant stock.

In Shanghai, long-term strategic investors, from Chinese state pension schemes to Singapore's GIC, took up 80% of the offering. That is an unprecedented portion for the fledgling Science and Technology Innovation Board, a Nasdaq-style board that is also known as the STAR Market. The remaining 20% was 284 times oversubscribed, a filing showed on Monday.

Ant could ultimately raise a maximum of about $5.2 billion more, if underwriters exercise their option to purchase up to 15% more shares in an arrangement known as a greenshoe.

The blockbuster IPO could yield a big payday for an army of investment banks: In Hong Kong, underwriters could collect up to 1% in fees, or the equivalent of about $198 million, according to a filing.

The Hong Kong share sale is being led by Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, and China International Capital Corp. No fee details are available yet for the Shanghai leg, which is being led by CICC and China Securities Co.

Separately on Wednesday, New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc., one of China's largest private education companies, said it would join the list of U.S.-traded Chinese groups seeking a secondary listing in Hong Kong. It aims to raise up to $1.54 billion.

--Xie Yu and Stella Yifan Xie contributed to this article.

Write to Jing Yang at Jing.Yang@wsj.com and Joanne Chiu at joanne.chiu@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

10-28-20 2332ET

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