HONG KONG: China’s Ant Financial Services Group is planning to raise up to $5 billion in fresh equity that could value the online payments giant at more than $100 billion, people familiar with the move told Reuters. A fundraising would bring Ant, in which e-commerce firm Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is taking a one-third stake, a step closer to a hotly anticipated initial public offering by establishing a more current valuation. Ant’s last fundraising in 2016 valued the owner of Alipay, China’s top online payment platform, at about $60 billion. The new round should start with a valuation of between $80 billion to $100 billion, the people said. Ant is currently in talks to appoint advisers for the fundraising which is expected to be launched in the next couple of months, they added. Ant declined to comment on its fundraising plans. All the people spoke to Reuters on the condition they not be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue. While no timetable for an IPO has been set, nor any location yet chosen, Ant’s plans are being viewed as a pre-IPO fundraising, the people said. A pre-IPO round is an increasingly common move by sought-after Chinese companies to establish valuations and widen their investor base ahead of going public. It was not immediately clear how the company plans to use the fresh cash. The exact timing and size of the fundraising still depends on investor feedback but any deal will add to an already hectic pace of domestic and offshore fundraising by Chinese tech firms that are looking to expand both at home and abroad. Published in Daily Times, February 10th2018.