Ant Financial, a subsidiary of Jack Ma’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, is using some of the $14 billion treasure chest it just raised to invest in blockchain.
Ant Financial owns and operates China’s largest online and mobile payments network Alipay. The company was carved out from Alibaba Group seven years ago, and is now worth a reported $150 billion after closing one of the biggest capital raises on record.
The funds raised in the Series C round will be set aside to accelerate Alipay’s globalization plans, and invest in developing technology to further “enhance the company’s ability to deliver inclusive financial services.” Part of that plan includes blockchain.
“The Company will continue to invest in developing its blockchain, AI, security, IoT and computing capabilities to upgrade its global technology platform for the next generation,” Ant Financial said in a statement.
While most financial institutions have steered clear of bitcoin and other volatile cryptocurrencies, CEOs across industries are investing heavily in blockchain. Global spending on blockchain solutions is set to more than double to $2.1 billion this year, according to a May 24 Cowen report.
Jamie Dimon, for example, called bitcoin a “fraud” in September and later said those “stupid enough to buy it” will one day pay the price. But he called blockchain “good technology,” and J.P. Morgan developed its blockchain technology called Quorum two years ago for clearing and settling derivatives and cross-border payments.
Blockchain technology is what’s known as “decentralized” and is considered by advocates to be tamper-proof, cheaper, and more efficient. Bad actors would need to hack into multiple systems to change any information, making the data almost unhackable. It also speeds up transaction efficiency and gets rid of the need for a third-party intermediary, like a bank.
The technology is being applied to everything from healthcare, to the auto industry, to the legal marijuana industry. But skeptics like noted economist Nouriel Roubini have called it “‘one of the most overhyped technologies ever.”