Alibaba’s financial services affiliate Ant Financial has seen such a strong demand for its shares that the company has increased the amount it is raising in the current funding round to at least $3.5 billion. It was initially seeking to raise close to $3 billion in the second round of funding. Sources familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that the Alipay operator is valued at $60 billion in the new funding round.

Alibaba's Ant Financial Raising $3.5 Billion; Targets 2 Billion Users

Ant Financial likely to go public next year

Investing in Ant Financial are the China Investment Corp and China Construction Bank, along with several existing and new investors. Last year, it had raised $1.9 billion in its first funding round. Though Ant Financial is an independent entity, it is tightly controlled by Alibaba. The Alipay operator is gearing up to go public soon. The company has not revealed its plans, but analysts expect its listing on a local Chinese stock exchange in 2017.

The fresh funds will give Ant Financial more muscle as it looks to buy stakes in a variety of businesses including China’s Postal Savings Bank and a lottery company. Its products like Alipay, MYBank and Yue Bao are closely linked to Alibaba’s online marketplaces. Alipay has more than 450 million active users who carry out about 170 million Alipay transactions every day.

Alipay targeting 2 billion users in 5-10 years

Sabrina Peng, head of Ant Financial’s international unit, said yesterday the company was targeting two billion users worldwide within 5-10 years. It plans to work with more than 1 million merchants in South-East Asia, Europe and the United States to provide better services to Chinese outbound travelers. It means the Chinese people travelling abroad will not have to shift to other services to find local deals and coupons. All the merchants’ information will be available to them in Chinese.

According to the Shanghai Daily, Alipay was used by 120 million users outside China last year. Sabrina Peng said Ant Financial was also talking to financial institutions, restaurants, and theaters across Europe to let them access its data analysis capabilities to market their offerings to Chinese travelers. Alibaba and Ant Financial together hold 40% equity in India’s largest mobile payment platform Paytm.