Zhong An Online P&C Insurance Co. could raise up to $2 billion this year in its domestic IPO, the Wall Street Journal reported. The first purely digital insurer in China, it was valued at $8 billion by a funding round in June.
The company was founded in 2013 by Jack Ma, the executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, Tencent Chairman Pony Ma, and Ma Mingzhe, chairman of Ping An Insurance Group. Zhong An sells insurance, ranging from coverage against flat tires to protection against return-delivery for buyers on Taobao.com, a marketplace of Alibaba. It derives the majority of its revenue from the latter service. In its first year, Zhong An underwrote 630 million insurance policies, the Digital Insurer reported.
In June, Zhong An raised nearly $1 billion in its first round of funding from investors that included Morgan Stanley and China International Capital Corporation, one of the top Chinese investment banks. It remains unclear on which stock exchange Zhong An has set its sights, although other major insurers, plus one of its shareholders, Ping An Insurance, are listed on the Shanghai Composite Index.
The past several months have been tumultuous for Chinese stock markets, and in June, the government suspended new listings in an effort to stabilize the market. It has since slowly begun to allow new IPOs, with the China Securities Regulatory Commission approving nine such offerings Tuesday, although China's market stability is far from assured.
In January, the People's Bank of China, the central bank, injected more than $198 billion into the financial system, amid liquidity shortages and after a precipitous drop in stock markets triggered a circuit breaker that suspended trading the first week of the year. More broadly, the country is contending with reduced domestic consumption and attempting to weaken its currency, the yuan, to help its export market.
Zhong An reported net profits of $4.1 million in 2014. Its largest shareholder is the financial-services affiliate of Alibaba, which own 16 percent of the company. Ping An, the insurance company, and Tencent each own a 12 percent stake.