Record-Breaking Ant Group IPO Suspended By China’s Regulators

Touted as the Henry Ford of China, tech billionaire Jack Ma is on the precipice of breaking yet another record with Ant Group’s IPO. The significance of the dual listing, and its amount, would solidify Ma as one of the world’s greatest tech entrepreneurs. However, Chinese regulators have hit the brakes, indicating that the company may not be meeting listing conditions or disclosure requirements.

For his second record-breaking IPO, Ma’s Ant Group aimed to raise just shy of $34.5 billion. The Hong Kong component of the IPO was estimated to raise around $17.24 billion and 97% of the Hong Kong shares issued would go to institutional investors. The IPO would value the company at over $310 billion.

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However, the IPO came to an abrupt halt on November 3 when regulators suspended the IPO, shortly before its shares were set to start trading in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Ant Group executives and the Chinese central bank have been in discussions since November 2. The spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin said "It is a decision made to better safeguard the capital market stability and protect investors' rights and interests."

The IPO would have potentially caused Jack Ma’s fortune to hit $71.1 billion, making him the 11th richest person in the world. But in his current spot at number 17 on the Forbes World Billionaires List, he is already the richest person in China. Ma is admired by Chinese people nationally who look up to him as a person who has overcome disadvantageous such as growing up during China’s Cultural Revolution, having no family connections, no Ivy League degree, and having founded Alibaba two years prior to the dotcom bubble burst, to achieve extreme success and become an inspiration to others of a similar background.

Ma has since built businesses that have become omnipotent, and it would be difficult to spend a day in China without interacting with or seeing the impact of Alibaba, Ant, or Alipay. With such an impact on the way Chinese people live and consume, Duncan Clark, author of Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built has shared that a massive number of people “associate these products with the last 10 years of rising prosperity” in China and that “there’s an emotional element to ” perceiving his products and contributions.

At a recent business conference in Shanghai, Ma highlighted the fact that the pricing for Ant's IPO was "determined outside of New York City," demonstrating China’s growing influence in finance and tech. "We didn't dare to think about it five years ago, or even three years ago," Ma said, calling it "a miracle" that such a huge IPO could now take place in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Initially Alibaba had shunned Hong Kong for its market debut in 2014 since the exchange disallowed it to list with dual-class shares. Hong Kong changed its rules in 2018 giving Ma the green light to continue on his path.

Now, as China reconsiders Ant Group’s IPO, it appears Ma and his company may face further obstacles as its exponential success draws the continued attention of regulators.