Alibaba’s Ant Financial hires top IPO lawyer

Alibaba's financial affiliate brings in Leiming Chen as general global counsel as it prepares to look beyond China to sustain its heady growth rates.

Ant Financial Services Group, the finance arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has hired veteran lawyer Leiming Chen as global general counsel and senior vice-president in charge of legal and compliance as well as risk management, the company said on Monday.

The company, controlled by Alibaba’s billionaire chairman Jack Ma, wooed Chen from US law firm Simpson Thacher & Barlett, where he worked on a variety of landmark equity and debt offerings, including Alibaba’s record-breaking $25 billion listing in New York.

According to Simpson’s official website, Chen also advised Bank of China, Country Garden, Tencent and Ping An Insurance on their Hong Kong listings. Prior to Simpson, he was as a partner at Shearman & Sterling, a New York-headquartered law firm, between January 2004 and April 2006, according to his LinkedIn profile.

“Leiming’s appointment is an important step as Ant Financial sets out to be a global leader in the financial services space, offering industry-leading products while operating to the very highest standards of compliance and ethics,” Lucy Peng, chief executive officer of Ant Financial, said in a statement. “Leiming’s track record as one of the leading lawyers in the Asia-Pacific region speaks for itself and we are delighted to have secured someone of his stature to join Ant Financial at this important stage in our growth.”

Chen said he was eager to play an important role in Ant Financial’s future as the company moves to the next stage of growth through international expansion. “I am delighted to be joining Ant Financial in this exciting new role,” he added.

He received his doctorate of law in 1994 from York University in Canada after graduating from Hangzhou Teachers College in 1981, the statement said.

Chen will lead a team of 50 legal and compliance experts and reports to the company’s president Eric Jing. Jing is also the executive of MYBank, one of China’s first online banks, established in June 2015 with a focus on small loans. Ant Financial owns a 30% stake in MYBank.

A spokeswoman for Ant Financial confirmed Chen’s appointment but declined to provide any update on its Series B funding round, in which it is seeking to raise Rmb10 billion ($1.5 billion), according to media reports.

Ant Financial, formerly known as Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial, completed its initial round of fundraising in June 2015, valuing the fintech company at about $45 billion. According to bankers familiar with the company, Ant Financial may mull a late 2016 or 2017 listing if the conditions are right.

Ant Financial, spun off from Alibaba in 2011, runs Alipay, the PayPal-like online payments company that has more than 400 million active users. It also runs China's largest online money market fund, Yuebao, and food-ordering app Koubei – which means word-of-mouth reputation in Chinese.

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