Market Mad House

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

Market Insanity

Ant Financial; not Uber, is the World’s Most Valuable Unicorn

The world’s most valuable pre-IPO technology company is not Uber; and it is not even located in America. Instead the most valuable unicorn on Earth is the Chinese Fintech organization Ant Financial.

Ant Financial might be worth $75 billion, Elinor Leung; the head of telecom and internet research at CSLA Hong Kong, told Bloomberg in October. Bloomberg also claimed that Ant might be worth more than Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) which is hard to swallow.

Goldman Sachs had a market capitalization of $94.11 billion on March 21, 2017; or about $19 billion more than Leung’s Ant valuation, according to ycharts. The Wall Street icon also reported an enterprise value of $235.83 billion, assets of $860.16 billion and cash and short-term investments of $121.71 billion on December 31, 2016. That means the investment bank is still worth far more than the Chinese unicorn.

Sorry Travis Uber is only worth $30 billion

Despite that Ant is probably worth a lot more than Uber Technologies Inc. Uber was valued at $62.5 billion to $66 billion over the summer but there’s a lot of controversy about that.

Uber’s real value is between $28 billion and $30 billion Aswath Damodaran; an equity valuation expert at New York University’s Stern School of Business, told Bloomberg Technology in August. Damodaran thinks that Uber’s valuation is based on wishful thinking about the potential of ride-sharing rather than real numbers.

If Damodaran is right, Uber’s value is worth well less than half of the estimate Leung provided for Ant. News reports indicate that Damodaran is probably right. Bloomberg estimated Uber’s losses for 2016 at $5.5 billion, and claimed that the ride-hailing solution lost $800 million in third quarter alone.

Also dragging Uber down are all the scandals at the company. Over the past few months Uber has been accused of sexual harassment, intellectual property theft (by Alphabet no less), illegal lobbying and having a toxic culture at its offices among other things.

Why Ant Financial is Worth a Lot More than Uber will ever be

There is a very simple reason why Ant Financial which is a spinoff of Jack Ma’s ecommerce giant Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) is worth a lot more than Uber ever will be. Ant Financial is making a lot of real money in the real world right now.

Leung estimated that Ant Financial’s digital wallet; Alipay is worth around $50 billion. That sounds accurate because Alipay’s American rival PayPal Holdings (NASDAQ: PYPL) reported a market cap of $51.77 billion on March 21, 2017, and an enterprise value of $47.14 billion on December 31, 2016.

Ant’s micro loan service is worth around $8 billion and its wealth management unit was around $7 billion, Leung added. Note that adds up to $65 billion to the $75 billion she mentioned earlier.

These numbers sound fairly credible when one takes a look at some of the statistics for Alipay. Expanded Ramblings reported that Alipay had 400 million registered users on February 25, 2017 and 100 million daily users on December 2, 2016. The service also reported 175 million transactions a day on August 10, 2016.

Credit Swiss estimated that Alipay accounted for 58% of the online payments in China 2015, The Financial Times reported. That translated into a payment volume of $1.9 trillion or 12 trillion yuan in 2015.

Ant Might be a Value Investment Uber is Not

All this indicates that Ant is generating a lot of income in a proven business; digital wallets. PayPal reported revenues of $10.84 billion, a net income of $1.401 billion and $3.158 billion in cash from operations on December 31, 2016. It also has a huge captive audience of 668 million Chinese internet users which gives it a wide moat guaranteed by the Communist Party.

A huge advantage that Ant has is that financial services are poorly developed in China. Many Chinese are forced to use it in order to make every-day financial transactions because they lack access to instruments such as bank accounts. For many Chinese Ant is the only bank that they’re familiar with.

Uber has a technology that is easily replicated (ride-hailing apps) and little or no moat to protect it. Almost anybody can create a ride-hailing app and start competing with Uber in many markets.

Ant also has the potential to enter other highly profitable businesses such as banking while Uber may not. One problem Uber faces is that if tries to offer financial services it faces stringent regulations in countries like the United States and the UK.

All this means that Ant might become a value investment whenever Jack Ma takes it public. It has a terrific business in China right now that can easily be replicated in other developing markets such as India and Africa.

Uber has had a difficult time getting its model adopted outside the English speaking world. It even pulled out of China and has faced intense opposition in countries like France and Brazil.

To make matters worse, serious doubts are being raised about Uber’s vaunted self-driving car program. Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) has accused Uber of massive intellectual property theft from its Waymo autonomous vehicle subsidiary and Recode has obtained documents that indicate Uber has made little progress in perfecting the technology.

Ant Financial is potentially the world’s most valuable Unicorn and the next big IPO. Uber on the other hand end up as just a foot note in the history books, or worse a bad joke. The future of Fintech and fantastic amounts of profit might just belong to Ant Financial and China.