Ant Group IPO Suspended After Co-Founder Jack Ma Summoned for Talks With Regulators

Just several days before Ant Group Co was to begin trading in Hong Kong and Shanghai markets, Chinese regulators summoned the fintech’s co-founder Jack Ma, and several members of the company’s management team for a rare, closed-door questioning. The company’s highly anticipated and record-breaking $34.5 billion IPO has been suspended in the meantime.

According to a brief statement issued by China’s Securities Regulatory Commission, the focus of the supervisory meeting was the stability and viability of the financial sector; however, further details still remain behind closed doors. Nonetheless, clues suggest that Ant was on the receiving end of increased regulatory scrutiny, given that several weeks prior Ma expressed his discontent with Chinese regulators allegedly stifling innovation. “What we need is to build a healthy financial system, not systematic financial risks. To innovate without risks is to kill innovation. There’s no innovation without risks in the world,” he noted.

His statement likely did not sit well with Beijing, and as a result China reminded Ant that it will be subject to the same leverage and capital restrictions as banks. According to Sanford C. Bernstein Hong Kong-based analyst Yu Tianjiao, the situation is somewhat alarming given that what was to be the largest IPO in the world, attracting investors from around the globe is being shut down mere days before its debut. Tianjiao notes that the meeting will likely be a precursor in the long term, as investors will begin to consider Ant as a financial services firm, which will ultimately lead to the reevaluation of the company’s growth potential.

An earlier decision by Ant to list on the Star board, which is a relatively new market that was started in Shanghai in 2019, has been considered a milestone for the company. The latest IPO has caught the attention of more than $3 trillion worth of individual investors’ orders for its dual listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong. In just the Shanghai preliminary price consultation, institutional investors had subscribed for more than 76 billion shares – over 284 times more than the initial offering.

If not for the sudden suspension, Ant’s IPO would have increased the company’s market value to $315 billion, which is four times bigger than Goldman Sachs Group Co. Nonetheless, the latest dampening news created some rippling effects across financial markets, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures falling by 1.2%, and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, which owns one third of a stake in Ant, saw its shares fall by 8% in premarket U.S. trading.

Information for this briefing was found via Reuters. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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