Ant Group’s stock offering would be biggest ever
The Chinese financial technology titan is set to raise around $34 billion when its shares begin trading in Hong Kong and Shanghai in the coming weeks. That would make its initial public offering the largest on record.
Ant Group, Alipay’s parent company, priced its shares around $10.30 apiece, according to documents released on Monday by the stock exchanges in the two cities. At that price, its market value would be comparable to that of JPMorgan Chase and more than that of many other global banks.
Context: The sale puts another stamp on China’s importance as a digital powerhouse. Last year, Ant, which is backed by the billionaire Jack Ma, earned $2.7 billion in profit on $18 billion in revenue. It says it handled $17 trillion in digital payments in mainland China during the 12 months that ended in June.
Go deeper: For hundreds of millions of people in China, Alipay may as well be a bank. It is their credit card, debit card, mutual fund and even insurance broker — all in a single phone app. It is a lender to small businesses that might be ignored by China’s state-run banks. The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities.
China’s rise from poverty stalls
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is expected to declare victory in a yearslong campaign to eliminate extreme poverty. But the coronavirus pandemic has exposed shortcomings in the effort to lift up China’s most vulnerable, especially in rural areas.
Experts warn that the government’s response to the crisis — favoring infrastructure spending and tax breaks instead of direct aid for families — may even widen China’s gap between rich and poor.
The lengthy lockdowns in China left rural residents stranded hundreds of miles from the factories where they work, and many were unemployed for months. And much pandemic aid went to businesses in urban areas.
How it works: Mr. Xi’s antipoverty campaign — which has mobilized millions of officials and cost billions of dollars — is focused on around five million people who earn less than 92 cents a day, down from nearly 56 million people five years ago. Local officials maintain detailed lists of the income levels of poor residents and hand out subsidies, housing and loans.
In other developments:
Japan aims to become carbon neutral by 2050
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga laid out an ambitious climate goal even as Japan plans to build more than a dozen coal-burning power plants in the coming years. Japan is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
The announcement came just weeks after China said it would reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2060. It will require a major overhaul of the infrastructure in Japan, which relies on fossil fuels.
Mr. Suga offered few specifics on how the country would achieve the goal, saying only that he would harness the power of “innovation” and “regulatory reform” to transform Japan’s energy production and usage.
If you have 10 minutes, this is worth it
Trump had one last story to sell
The White House was depending on a team of Wall Street Journal reporters to deliver a story that President Trump hoped would crush his opponent, Joe Biden. But the tip about Mr. Biden’s son Hunter and claims that the former vice president profited from his lobbying activities came up short, The Journal found.
Our media columnist wrote about the White House’s secret, last-ditch effort to change the narrative, and the election.
Here’s what else is happening
Qatar Airways: Women on a flight to Sydney say they were strip-searched and given medically invasive exams to see if they had recently given birth. A newborn had just been found abandoned in an airport bathroom in Doha, where they were departing from. The episode sparked anger in Australia and called into question Qatar’s treatment of women.
Amy Coney Barrett: The judge is expected to be confirmed as the next U.S. Supreme Court justice. The vote in the Senate comes after one of the fastest confirmation processes in recent history.
Borat: Kazakhstan, which lashed out after the first “Borat” film, is now embracing the Sacha Baron Cohen satire and has created tourism ads adopting its catchphrase.
Chile: The country overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to scrap the dictatorship-era constitution and draft a new one. Chileans are now scheduled to vote in 2022 to approve or reject a new text drafted by an elected constitutional convention.
Snapshot: Above, workers and students protesting in Minsk, Belarus, on Monday. Workers across the country took part in a nationwide strike. The opposition is hoping to ramp up pressure on President Aleksandr Lukashenko to resign.
What we’re reading: This article in the magazine High Country News about pandemic struggles in Las Vegas, in one of the largest U.S. school districts. “This just felt so stark to me. Schools aren’t open, but slot machines are?” says Amelia Nierenberg, who writes the Coronavirus Schools Briefing.
Now, a break from the news
And now for the Back Story on …
The Electoral College
With a week to go before Election Day in the U.S., we take a look at the Electoral College and its role in determining the winner of the presidency.
Many people, including some Americans, are under the assumption that citizens’ votes alone determine the next president. They do not. That responsibility falls to the Electoral College: When Americans cast their ballots, they are actually voting for a slate of electors chosen by their state’s political parties who are pledged to support that party’s candidate. (They don’t always do so.)
A total of 538 electoral votes are in play across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. It takes 270 electoral votes to win.
The party that wins a state typically receives all of its electoral votes. Most states have clear majorities, either for Democrats or Republicans. But in swing states, the race is close enough that both candidates have a shot at winning.
Sometimes, because states with smaller populations are overrepresented in the Electoral College, a candidate can win the popular vote but lose the election. This occurred in 2016, when Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 3 million, and in a few other elections in U.S. history.
For years there have been debates about abolishing the system entirely to allow the popular vote to determine the winner. But the issue faces a partisan divide, since Republicans currently benefit from the electoral clout of less populous, rural states.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. Will Dudding wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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