Ant Financial Services Group’s popular Zeng Libao money market fund tripled in size last year, reaching RMB 579 billion ($93 billion) in assets under management compared with RMB 185 billion ($30 billion) at the end of 2013, according to the company.
The fund, China’s largest money market fund and the main offering of Ant Financial’s Yu’e Bao Internet-based investment platform, had more than 185 million users at the end of 2014. That’s up from 43 million at the end of 2013 and is more than the combined population of France, Germany and Canada. Investors earned acumulativetotal return of RMB 24 billion ($3.86 billion) last year, Ant Financial said in a press release.
After debuting in June, 2013, as an investment vehicle allowing online shoppers with Alipay accounts toearn returns on their idlecash, theZeng Libao fund (commonly referred to asthe Yu’e Bao fund) soared in popularity with average Chinese investors, drawn to returns that far exceeded interest rates paid on ordinary bank savings accounts. By March, 2014, the fund ranked among the largest money market funds in the world.
Ant Financial, which is related to e-commerce giant Alibaba Group,also owns Alipay, China’s largest e-payments provider.
While the number of users and total assets under management expanded last year,users are maintaining smaller investments in the fund. At the end of 2014, the average Zeng Libao investor held RMB 3,133 in the fund, down from RMB 5,030 at the end of June and RMB 4,307 at the end of 2013, according to Ant Financial. The fund currently offers a 7-day annualized yieldof 4.52 percent.
Managed byTianhong Asset Management, which is majority owned by Alipay, the fund has generated a cumulative returntotalingRMB 25.8 billion ($4.15 billion) for all users since its debut.
Ant Financial recently said this year it is promoting Yu’e Bao in China’s third- and fourth-tier cities and in rural areas where financial services are relatively scarce. Last year, more than 20 million rural China residents opened and invested in Yu’e bao accounts, according to the company.