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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Ant Financial on Monday filed for an initial public offering in Hong Kong and Shanghai, after years of speculation and anticipation.

Why it matters: This could be the largest IPO of all time, topping the $29 billion raised last year by Saudi Aramco. It's also a passive aggressive escalation of China-U.S. tensions, with Ant snubbing New York.

What is Ant: The fintech arm of Alibaba Group, which in 2014 chose New York for what, at the time, was a record-breaking IPO.

  • It began as a digital payments platform (Alipay), but has since expanded into everything from lending to wealth management to insurance.
  • Ant also is a major investor in startups, despite being considered a "unicorn" itself, and has formed joint ventures for services like local delivery.
  • In short, the company wants to be viewed as a rival to tech services companies as much as it is to banks.

By the numbers: Ant's IPO filing shows $3.2 billion of profits on $10.5 billion in revenue for the first half of 2020. The profit figure represents a year-over-year gain in excess of 1,000%, while revenue was up around 40%.

  • It's raised over $23 billion in the private markets, including from U.S. firms like BlackRock, General Atlantic, Silver Lake, and Warburg Pincus.
  • The most recent private valuation, from last fall, was $200 billion. Multiple reports suggest the IPO will target an enterprise value of at least $225 billion.

The joint Hong Kong-Shanghai STAR Market listing is a first, and Axios China editor Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian thinks my "snub" language may be too soft, per an early morning Slack message:

  • "U.S. commentators keep speculating that Hong Kong can't last as a financial hub due to the Hong Kong national security law, but it's clear that China views things differently. (So do I)."

The bottom line: The IPO market is going gangbusters, as public equities bulls continue to stampede away from the real economy, and Ant is at the head of the class.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Oct 29, 2020 - Technology

Apple sets September quarter sales record despite later iPhone launch

Apple CEO Tim Cook, speaking at the Apple 12 launch event in October. Photo: Apple

Apple on Thursday reported quarterly sales and earnings that narrowly exceeded analysts estimates as the iPhone maker continued to see strong demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What they's saying: The company said response to new products, including the iPhone 12 has been "tremendously positive" but did not give a specific forecast for the current quarter.

2 hours ago - Health

Ipsos poll: COVID trick-or-treat

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note ±3.3% margin of error for the total sample size; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

About half of Americans are worried that trick-or-treating will spread coronavirus in their communities, according to this week's installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: This may seem like more evidence that the pandemic is curbing our nation's cherished pastimes. But a closer look reveals something more nuanced about Americans' increased acceptance for risk around activities in which they want to participate.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: The good and bad news about antibody therapies — Fauci: Hotspots have materialized across "the entire country."
  2. World: Belgium imposes lockdown, citing "health emergency" due to influx of cases.
  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Education: Surge threatens to shut classrooms down again.
  5. Technology: The pandemic isn't slowing tech.
  6. Travel: CDC replaces COVID-19 cruise ban with less restrictive "conditional sailing order."
  7. Sports: High school football's pandemic struggles.
  8. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.