In the meantime, Ant is busily stitching up and bedding down deals. Alibaba and Ant in March agreed to invest $177m for a controlling stake in the ecommerce unit of Indian tech group Paytm, having already poured more than $500m into Paytm, which is a similar platform to that run by Ant and which has more than 170m users.
Ant also ploughed $200m into Kakao Pay, a financial services arm of South Korean messaging app Kakao, and last month sweetened its $1.2bn bid for Moneygram to chase off rival suitor Euronet.
Bankers point out that it does not have “a burning need for capital”. It recently raised $3bn in debt overseas for foreign acquisitions.
Alipay was the subject of one of China’s most controversial corporate governance scandals, when in 2011 Mr Ma took it out of Alibaba and placed it under the direct control of himself and some associates.
Yahoo, at the time a 40 per cent shareholder in Alibaba, was among the main protesters. Mr Ma said he needed to make the step in order to satisfy new Chinese regulations on online finance.
Alibaba later settled with Yahoo and SoftBank, the Japanese technology group that is its other major shareholder. The agreement guarantees Alibaba 37.5 per cent of the total equity value of Alipay or a payment of at least $2bn and up to $6bn, if the spun-off company goes public or another “liquidity event” takes place.
It also requires Alipay to pay Alibaba royalties for software services and 49.9 per cent of its consolidated pre-tax income, and it must continue to service Taobao, the group’s consumer ecommerce unit and other group businesses, under preferential terms.
In addition to running Alipay, Ant offers a range of financial services. Its Yu’e Bao money market fund is the world’s biggest, with $165.6bn under management, based on first-quarter data.