Bill O’Brien, Editor
“There’s a saying in China: ‘The tallest nail gets hammered down,'” said Duncan Clark, author of “Alibaba: The House that Jack Ma Built” and founder of investment advisory firm BDA China.
Jack Ma, pictured above, is not formally associated with the fintech company, Ant Group, but is the company’s controlling shareholder. Analysts are putting blame on the ecommerce mogul for recent statements criticizing Chinese regulators.
As U.S. markets whipsawed for the last 24 hours amid Election Day chaos, a leading fintech company in China experienced a ‘day of reckoning’ of sorts. The unicorn fintech company, Ant Group, was on track to set a record in raising capital from public markets with a $34.5 billion dollar IPO. Ant Group offers numerous services to its consumers, which include mobile payments services, wealth management, a third-party credit rating system and a mutual aid platform which “provides a basic health plan to protect participants against 100 kinds of critical illnesses.”
The company has made strides outside of the country into Europe as well. Ant Group’s mobile payment platform, Alipay, has existing relationships with numerous European digital wallets apps in Finland, Norway, Spain, Portugal and Austria. The fintech company has made headway in Britain as well, acquiring international money transfer services provider, WorldFirst, for $700 million in 2019 and reaching an agreement with Barlcaycard that enabled British retailers to accept Alipay in their stores.
The fintech company has been making incredible progress, which is why it is unsurprising that Chinese regulators yanking their IPO sent Alibaba, one-third shareholder of Ant Group, reeling. Alibaba, trading off a high of $310.73 early Monday evening (4:00P EST), fell 7.8 percent to $286.31 amid the news before rebounding to around $298.40 this Wednesday afternoon.
Analysts are pointing fingers at the controlling shareholder of the company and founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, who recently gave a speech criticizing Chinese regulators for their risk aversion. “What we need is to build a healthy financial system, not systematic financial risks,” the Ant Group co-founder said at a conference in Shanghai. “To innovate without risks is to kill innovation. There’s no innovation without risks in the world.” He also highlighted the need for systemic reform in China’s financial sector, describing it as “a legacy of the Industrial Age.” Ma continued, saying, “we must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system.”
Chinese regulators responded shortly after as if Ma had spit in their face, bringing Ant Group executives and Ma in for “regulatory interviews” which resulted in regulators deciding to suspend the fintech company’s initial public offerings in Shanghai and Hong Kong and prompting Ant Group to release the following statement to investors:
“Ant Group Co., Ltd. (the “Company”) announces that it was notified by the relevant regulators in the PRC today that its proposed A Share listing on the STAR Market is suspended as the Company may not meet listing qualifications or disclosure requirements due to material matters relating to the regulatory interview of our ultimate controller, our executive chairman and our chief executive officer by the relevant regulators and the recent changes in the Fintech regulatory environment. Consequently, the concurrent proposed H Share listing on the Main Board of The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited shall also be suspended. Further details relating to the suspension of the H Share listing and the refund of the application monies will be made as soon as possible.” (ANT GROUP CO., LTD.)
Ant Group has made it clear it still intends to launch an IPO, preferably before the Chinese New Year, but analysts suspect they may need to do so under stricter capital requirements that will be set by the Chinese regulatory authorities or that it may need to sell its microlending business to do so.