Alibaba's Ma Regains Spot as Asia's Richest


FEBRUARY 02, 2015

Alibaba chairman Jack Ma regained his spot as Asia's richest person with a higher valuation for the company's finance affiliate ahead of a stock sale that also created a dozen new billionaires.

Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services, which owns payments processor Alipay, is valued at about $50 billion, according to sources familiar with the matter. Ant Financial is weighing a private placement before going public in 2016, and details of the planned fundraising aren't finalized, the sources said last week.

The latest valuation for Ant Financial boosted Ma's fortune by about $10 billion to $36.4 billion as of Friday in New York, according to data from the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, overtaking's Jeff Bezos.

The new billionaires from the bigger valuation include the e-commerce giant's chief executive Jonathan Lu and chief people officer Lucy Peng.

"The entire e-payments market has just started," said Li Yujie, an analyst at RHB Research Institute in Hong Kong. "In the future, Alipay will capture a lot of this market. When it goes public, it will produce many new billionaires."

Lu and Peng, both co-founders of Alibaba, each have a fortune valued at about $1.8 billion, based on their stakes in Ant Financial, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Shao Xiaofeng, who joined Alibaba in 2005 and has been its chief risk officer in the past two and a half years, has a fortune of about $1.2 billion.

"It's got formidable room for growth," said Cyrus Mewawalla, managing director of London-based CM Research. "As Alibaba expands in global markets, so could Alipay. If technology companies do well, then their owners become billionaires."

Other Alibaba co-founders and senior executives also emerge as stakeholders of Ant Financial. Chief operating officer Daniel Zhang and the other eight shareholders each have a net worth of more than $1 billion, according to the index.

Zhang and CEO Lu are among the Alibaba executives who are on the board, along with Ma and vice chairman Joseph Tsai, who has a $5.8 billion fortune.

The other senior executives include president Jianhang Jin; Trudy Dai, Alibaba's chief customer officer; Jian Wang, chief technology officer; and his deputy Peng Jiang. Other billionaire shareholders are Eddie Wu, Zeng Ming, Tiger Wang and Judy Tong.

The $50 billion valuation for Ant Financial is about twice the minimum threshold required for the company's initial public offering, according to Alibaba's prospectus.

Ma has controlled Ant Financial, including the Alipay payments business, since spinning off the finance operations into a new company in 2011, citing foreign ownership restrictions.

Ma was ranked China's wealthiest on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index in August, based on the earlier valuation for Ant Financial. He briefly overtook Hong Kong property tycoon Li Ka-shing for the top spot in Asia in December.

"I was really not happy in the past three months when people say Jack Ma is the richest person of China," Ma said in an interview with Charlie Rose last month. "When you have $1 billion, that's not your money -- that's the trust society gives."

Ant Financial hasn't hired investment banks, one of the people said. The company is planning an A-share sale in China while not ruling out a dual listing, another person familiar said.

Alipay, which is similar to PayPal, has more than 800 million registered users. Its mobile application has 190 million active users and handles 45 million transactions a day, the company said in October.