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Ant Financial to Set Up $1 billion Investment Fund - Reports The company's Vice President, Ji Gang, at a conference in Beijing earlier this week confirmed it was setting up a fund to provide late-stage funding to startups

By Aparajita Saxena

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Alibaba's fintech arm Ant Financial is in the process of forming a $1 billion investment fund to back promising start-ups across Southeast Asia and India in a bid to increase its foothold in the region, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The company's Vice President, Ji Gang, at a conference in Beijing earlier this week confirmed it was setting up a fund to provide late-stage funding to startups, according to post by the conference's organisers, but did not specify its size or where it was planning to deploy funds.

News of the fund was first reported by Deal Street Asia.

Ant Financial is already a prominent investor in Asia, having invested in at least 160 start ups over the past five years, including several regional fintech companies like India's payments giant Paytm.

Ant Financial is setting its sights abroad to stave off a slowdown in China, and competition from tech giant and WeChat owner, Tencent Holdings, for a piece of the mobile payments pie.

Ant Financial was initially set up by Alibaba to enable online payments on its e-commerce platform. "Alipay' - as the platform was earlier known - was used as a third-party escrow account where buyers could move the money for their purchase in to a separate, "holding' account until they received their goods and were satisfied with its quality, after which the payment would be released to the sellers.

Ant has now become one of the most valuable companies in the world, with a market-cap of about $150 billion.

The platform now offers a plethora of financial services such as wealth management, credit rating, consumer loans, and a private online bank run completely on the Cloud.

The company has raised investments from investors such as China Investment Corp, CCB Trust, China Life, Primavera Capital, China Post and China Development Bank Capital, among others.

Earlier this year, it bought WorldFirst, a U.K.-based money transfer services provider, for $700 million. At one point, it also tried to buy MoneyGram, a similar company based in the U.S., but regulators blocked the deal, citing national security concerns.

Currently, the company is exploring an investment in Indian food delivery company Zomato, which could see the payments giant cutting a cheque for $500 million to $600 million, but an Economic Times story, that cited people close to the firm, said Ant Financial was not looking to invest in India at the moment as it is trying to focus more on its home market where it is in a flux due to trade negotiations with the United States.

Last year, Ant Financial accounted for nearly 35 per cent of global venture capital investment in financial technology firms, according to a CB Insights report.

Aparajita Saxena

Former Deputy Associate Editor, Asia Pacific

Aparajita is Former Deputy Associate Editor for Entrepreneur Asia Pacific. She joined Entrepreneur after nearly five years with Reuters, where she chased the Asian and U.S. finance markets.

At Entrepreneur Asia Pacific, she wrote about trends in the Asia Pacific startup ecosystem. She also loves to look for problems startups face in their day-to-day and tries to present ways to deal with those issues via her stories, with inputs from other startups that may have once been in that boat.

Outside of work, she likes spending her time reading books (fiction/non-fiction/back of a shampoo bottle), chasing her two dogs around the house, exploring new wines, solo-travelling, laughing at memes, and losing online multiplayer battle royale games.



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