China Quizzes Jack Ma, Halts Ant Group’s $37 billion IPO
China has put on hold the $37 billion Initial Public Offering (IPO) of the Ant Group a day after authorities quizzed Jack Ma, the founder.
China’s biggest fintech firm was on course to dual-list on Thursday in Shanghai and Hong Kong in an epoch-making IPO that had drawn tremendous interest from institutional and individual investors.
Ma, also the founder of Alibaba, had been invited for “supervisory interviews,” the Shanghai Stock Exchange disclosed in a statement. It added that “other major issues” like changes in “the financial technology regulatory environment” were also part of the discussion.
“This material event may cause your company to fail to meet the issuance and listing conditions or information disclosure requirements. Our exchange has decided to postpone the listing of your company,” the bourse said.
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It directed Ant alongside its underwriters like China International Capital Corp, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, among others, to release the suspension news.
Established in 2004 as Alipay, a unit of Alibaba, Ant became an independent entity in 2014. Its payments platform has right from that point become the biggest globally, surpassing Mastercard and Visa given that it handled deals worth $17 trillion in the first half of the year.
Ant’s share offer in Hong Kong had been halted also because of the “material matters relating to the regulatory interview” of Ma and other executives, the company said.
Ant further stated that investors would be refunded “application monies” pertaining to the share offering.
The company sent apology to investors, saying it would “keep in close communications with the Shanghai Stock Exchange and relevant regulators . . . with respect to further developments of our offering and listing process.”
Jack Ma had in October lambasted China’s state-owned banks at a financial conference in Shanghai, saying the most prominent lenders had a “pawnshop mentality” and that Ant was instrumental in offering loans to companies and individuals without collateral but with innovative ideas.