This is from a report originally written in March 19, 2018. Ant’s business clearly has changed but the analysis may still be useful.
Ant’s Over-leveraged Funding Structure
“Ant Financial has got just enough bullets to cause a small–scale financial crisis.” Economist with a State Owned Bank.
l Growing Market Share. Ant Financial has quickly taken market share from traditional banks, trust companies and other financial firms. Eventually, the regulators may reduce Ant’s consumer lending business to prevent losses by the bigger banks.
l Undercapitalized “Bank.” We estimate that Ant’s outstanding credit stands at 49x Ant Cash Now’s registered capital. This 2% capital adequacy ratio is far below the CBRC 8% requirement for commercial banks.
l Little Oversight. Ant Financial has lending data for Ant Credit Pay as it utilizes a “virtual credit card” and tracks user purchases. However, there is little data on Ant Cash Now’s loans issued directly to users. This raises red flags about potential defaults.
l Main Driver Behind Securitization. In 3Q 17, Alibaba and its finance units accounted for 82% of consumer credit ABS. This is a significant concentration of risk.
Ant Financial operates through two businesses, Ant Credit Pay, which is a “virtual” credit card customers use to buy goods through Alibaba’s online platforms, and Ant Cash Now, which provides loans in cash issued directly to users who pay in installments with interest. The capital is supplied primarily through securitized loans sold to wealthy investors. We believe there are several significant risks to the business:
l Awkward Scalability. Ant Now’s loans, because they are in cash, are untraceable, so the default rate data used for Ant Credit Pay transactions are not available. This makes the scalability and control of Ant Cash Now’s business much more difficult.
l High Leverage. In order to scale the business, Ant Cash Now has created a high level of leverage through securitized loans. Currently, total outstanding credit, including off-balance sheet items, are estimated at nearly 49 times Ant Cash Now’s registered capital, far above the regulated limit of 2.3x.