Investors in what could be world’s biggest IPO must commit amid U.S. election uncertainty

Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co. is asking buyers of what could be the world’s biggest-ever initial public offering to commit to the deal just days before the U.S. presidential election.

The Chinese fintech giant will price the Shanghai portion of its dual listing on Oct. 27 and allow subscriptions on Oct. 29, it said in a prospectus published on Wednesday. The deadline for payments will be Nov. 2. Ant hasn’t yet spelled out dates for the Hong Kong leg of the IPO, but they’re expected to be similar.

While the company’s share sale is among the most hotly anticipated deals in years, the timeline will leave investors in a potentially precarious position: locked in during a pivotal week for global markets. Shares will almost certainly start trading only after the U.S. vote on Nov. 3, an event that could have big ramifications for both Ant’s overseas expansion plans and investor risk-appetite generally.

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Ant won regulatory approval for its Shanghai listing on Wednesday, clearing the way for it to begin guaging investor demand for an IPO that could value the Hangzhou-based company at $280 billion or more. It’s planning to raise about $35 billion from the dual listing, surpassing Saudi Aramco’s record $29 billion sale last year, people familiar with the matter have said.

An Ant representative declined to comment.

The company will issue no more than 1.67 billion shares in China, equivalent to 5.5% of the total outstanding before the so-called greenshoe option, according to its prospectus on the Shanghai stock exchange. It will issue the same amount for its Hong Kong offering.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which was co-founded by Ma and currently owns about a third of Ant, has agreed to subscribe for 730 million of the company’s Shanghai shares, which will be listed under the ticker “688688,” according to the prospectus.

Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte, Temasek Holdings Plc and China’s $318 billion National Council for Social Security Fund are also planning to invest, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month.

That strong demand means Ant may fetch a valuation equivalent to Bank of America Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. combined, despite concern that rising geopolitical risks could hamper the Chinese company’s international ambitions. Ant reported a 74% jump in gross profit to 69.5 billion yuan ($10.4 billion) from January to September, according to its prospectus.

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