Exclusive: Ant Financial close to closing a bigger-than-expected $3.5 billion debt round for international expansion

  • Ant Financial, the payments affiliate of Alibaba, is close to closing a $3.5 billion dollar-denominated debt round, a source told CNBC.
  • It was higher than the $2.5 billion initially expected by the company.
  • The money is said to be used for continued international expansion.

Ant Financial, the payments affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is close to closing a $3.5 billion debt financing round, a figure that was higher than previously expected, a source close to the situation told CNBC on Wednesday.

The debt is being raised in dollars rather than renminbi so that Ant Financial can fund its aggressive international expansion.

A source familiar with the matter said that there has been "huge appetite" for the fundraising round. The company had originally targeted a figure of around $2 billion to $2.5 billion, but this is now closer to $3.5 billion, the source said. CNBC reported in February that it could be around $3 billion. The latest figure is higher than this.

The financing round is "close to closing", the source said.

A spokesperson for Ant Financial declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.

Jack Ma, Chairman of Alibaba Group at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Jack Ma, Chairman of Alibaba Group at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Raising money in U.S. dollars will help Ant Financial spend money abroad as the Chinese government continues to keep an eye on capital outflows. In December, the government clamped down on the amount of money companies could move out of China, and while those restrictions have eased slightly, moving yuan can still be difficult.

Having dollars ready to spend will also help Ant continue its aggressive expansion path. Ant Financial is behind one of China's most popular payments apps called Alipay which has around 450 million users. The firm has been expanding outside of its home market into Europe and other parts of Asia. In Europe, Ant has struck deals with major institutions like BNP Paribas to help more merchants accept Alipay, mainly for Chinese visitors abroad.

Part of its expansion has meant investing and acquiring companies. Ant has previously invested in Paytm in India and recently bought helloPay in Singapore. In the U.S., Ant Financial announced it was buying cross-border payment service MoneyGram for $1.2 billion. The deal is pending.

The debt round could help Ant Financial fund this big acquisition.

Alibaba's financial affiliate has had no problem raising money. Last year it raised a $4.5 billion equity funding round which valued it around $60 billion, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC at the time, making it one of the world's most-valuable private technology companies.

There has been intense speculation about the company's plans to go public. A report by the Financial Times on Monday said that Ant had delayed its initial public offering (IPO) until the end of next year at the earliest.

But the company said that there has never been a timetable for an IPO.

"Therefore it is wrong to say there has been a delay in our IPO plans – you can't be delayed if you have never set a timetable," an Ant Financial spokesperson told CNBC on Wednesday.

"Our priority is to focus on our business and globalization is an important strategy for Ant Financial and we are making progress to bring equal access to financial services to 2 billion people globally."