Ant’s consumer finance unit to more than double capital to $2.62 bln

The consumer finance unit of China’s Ant Group will increase its registered capital to 18.5 billion yuan ($2.62 billion) from 8 billion yuan previously, in part by taking on new investors, underscoring a step forward for the fintech giant’s years-long revamp.

Ant will invest 5.25 billion yuan as part of the capital injection to retain its 50% stake in the unit, Chongqing Ant Consumer Finance Co Ltd, according to an exchange filing made by the unit’s minority shareholder Yuyue Medical (002223.SZ) on Monday.

Among the new investors is Hangzhou Jintou Digital Technology Group, which is controlled by the local government of Hangzhou city, home to Ant’s headquarters. It will invest 1.85 billion yuan to become the second biggest shareholder with a 10% stake, the filing showed.

The planned capital increase would be a significant move for the unit, which has been under regulatory pressure to fold into itself Ant’s two lucrative micro-loan businesses, Jiebei and Huabei.

It could also help Ant move closer to the end of its regulatory-driven revamp and revive plans for its public market debut after its $37 billion attempt at a dual listing was derailed at the last minute in November 2020.

Other new investors include logistics and financial services firm Transfar Zhilian Co Ltd (002010.SZ) and Chongqing Rural Credit Investment Group, a firm backed by the local government of Chongqing city, where Ant’s consumer finance unit is based.

Yuyue Medical, Sunny Optical Technology Group Co Ltd (2382.HK), and Boguan Technology, a unit of gaming major NetEase Inc (9999.HK), will also take part in the capital increase, according to the Monday filing.

The unit had previously planned to boost its capital to 30 billion yuan, with 6 billion yuan coming from state-owned asset manager China Cinda Asset Management Co Ltd (1359.HK).

Cinda, which had held a stake in the unit via its Nanyang Commercial Bank Ltd subsidiary, in January however scrapped an agreement to buy a 20% holding due to pressure from state authorities, sources have told Reuters.

Following Cinda’s move, other investors that had previously agreed to the capital increase in the same month, including Yuyue Medical and Sunny Optical, said that they would also postpone their investments.

Ant along with other investors set up the finance firm in August 2020, with the then aim of growing it into one of China’s biggest consumer lending players, before Beijing kicked off its unprecedented regulatory crackdown on tech companies.

Chinese regulators in April last year asked Ant to conduct a sweeping business overhaul, including turning Ant itself into a financial holding firm and folding Jiebei and Huabei into the consumer finance unit.

That would make Ant, whose businesses span payment processing to insurance products distribution, subject to rules and capital requirements similar to those for banks.

Reuters reported in February last year that Ant was in talks with other shareholders in its consumer finance unit to bolster the firm’s capital base to meet regulatory requirements on capital adequacy, as it prepared to fold in its two micro-lending businesses.X

($1 = 7.0662 Chinese yuan renminbi)