Ant launches blockchain-based cross-border trade platform ahead of $35 billion IPO

FILE PHOTO: The Alipay logo is pictured on a building at the Shanghai office of Alipay, owned by Ant Group, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, Shanghai, China, Sept. 14, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Ant Group, owner of China’s ubiquitous mobile payment app Alipay, launched a blockchain-powered platform for cross-border trade settlements on Friday, as it races to launch more technology products ahead of its blockbuster IPO.

The 16-year-old giant, backed by e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, plans to list simultaneously in Hong Kong and on Shanghai’s tech-heavy STAR Market next month, in what could be the world’s largest initial public offering (IPO) – surpassing oil giant Saudi Aramco’s $29.4 billion float last December.

Ant is seeking to raise about $35 billion in the dual IPO after assessing early investor interest and based on a higher valuation of about $250 billion or more, Reuters has reported.

Ant was previously known as Ant Financial but changed its name this year to rebrand itself more as a tech firm rather than a provider of financial technology due to tighter financial regulations.

Its new platform “Trusple”, a contraction of “trust made simple”, is based on the company’s blockchain technology Antchain.

Buyers and sellers can upload trading orders to the platform, which automatically generates a smart contract with information such as logistics. The banks of both buyers and sellers can then process payments using Antchain, Ant said.

Users of the platform could, for example, include vendors that sell to other businesses via marketplaces such as AliExpress, Alibaba’s overseas e-commerce site.

Ant has submitted the most number of blockchain patent applications globally over the past two years, according to patent database IncoPat.

The technology, a digital ledger that forms the backbone of many crypto-currencies such as bitcoin, has seen a burst of interest in China since late 2019 when President Xi Jinping said the country should accelerate its development.

Reporting by Yingzhi Yang and Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Cheng Leng; Editing by Christopher Cushing