World

Ant Group’s $50b listing suspended in both Shanghai and HK

HONG KONG : Ant Group's US$37 billion (S$50 billion) listing has been suspended in both Shanghai and Hong Kong in a dramatic move just two days before what was set to be the world's largest-ever stock market debut.

The Shanghai stock exchange first announced that it had suspended Ant's initial public offering (IPO) on its STAR market, prompting Ant to also freeze the Hong Kong leg of the dual listing.

Ant said that its listing had been suspended by Shanghai following a recent interview regulators held with its founder Jack Ma and other top executives.

It said it may not meet listing qualifications or disclosure requirements, and also cited recent changes in the fintech regulatory environment.

Shanghai described Ant's meeting with Chinese financial regulators as a "major event".

Ant was set to go public in Hong Kong and Shanghai tomorrow after raising about US$37 billion, including the greenshoe option of the domestic leg, in a record public sale of shares.

"This is a curve ball that has been thrown at us... I don't know what to say," said a banker working on the IPO.

TIGHTENED SCRUTINY

Regulators had summoned Mr Ma, Ant's Executive Chairman Eric Jing and Chief Executive Simon Hu to a meeting on Monday, when they were told the company's lucrative online lending business faced tighter government scrutiny, sources told Reuters.

The meeting came as Chinese authorities published new draft rules for online micro-lending.

At the end of October, Ma had called financial regulation outdated and badly suited to companies trying to use technology to drive financial innovation.

But Beijing has become more uncomfortable with banks heavily using micro-lenders or third-party technology platforms like Ant for underwriting consumer loans, amid fears of rising defaults and deteriorating asset quality in a pandemic-hit economy.

Shares in Ant's affiliate Alibaba Group fell about 8.6 per cent in pre-market trading after news of the Shanghai stock exchange suspension of Ant's A-share IPO.

Ant Group issued an apology to investors for any inconvenience caused by the suspension of the IPOs. - REUTERS

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