Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's (BABA) finance services arm "will definitely go public," Executive Chairman Jack Ma said on Tuesday, eyeing a mainland China listing for the e-commerce company's crown jewel.
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Alibaba was unable to list shares on China's mainland as part of its record-breaking $25 billion initial public offering, said Ma. "I hope that Alipay has this opportunity," he told China's official CCTV state broadcaster in an interview, according to a transcript posted on CCTV's official Weibo microblog.
Ma, speaking on the company's annual Singles' Day shopping festival , did not give a timeline for when the unit might list. Alibaba's Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai said later in Hangzhou that Alibaba would look to list the entire Ant Financial Services Group on mainland exchanges at a future date. Alipay is one unit of Ant Financial.
Alipay is the lifeblood of Alibaba's e-commerce network and China's dominant online payment processor. Set up a decade ago, the service pioneered online payments in China and settled 4.825 trillion yuan ($788 billion) in transactions in the year ended June 30, 2014.
Foreign access to mainland stock markets remains curtailed and subject to quotas, but there are now a series of trial program in place that if expanded could allow significant foreign exposure to firms listed on mainland exchanges.
In October, Ant Financial Chief Executive Lucy Peng said there were no current plans for the company to hold an initial public offering of its own.
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As part of an August agreement between Alibaba and Ant Financial, Alibaba shares 37.5 percent of the unit's profit or can in the future take a direct stake in it
The IPO must value Ant Financial at a minimum of $25 billion, according to the agreement, which is detailed in Alibaba's IPO prospectus.
Alibaba has been aggressively offering new financial services around Alipay, including a money market fund for consumers, a mobile payment app and even a new private bank that was approved by the Chinese government in September.
Alibaba controversially spun out Alipay in 2011, but its executives including executive chairman Jack Ma maintain control of the payment processor, considered by some analysts as one of the most valuable assets in the Alibaba universe due to its unique position in Chinese commerce.(1 US dollar = 6.1240 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Adam Jourdan in HANGZHOU and Paul Carsten and Beijing Newsroom in BEIJING; Editing by Miral Fahmy/Keith Weir)