Ant Group’s $37 Billion Listing Suspended in Shanghai and Hong Kong

Ant Group’s $37 Billion Listing Suspended in Shanghai and Hong Kong
A logo of Ant Group is pictured at the headquarters of the company in Hangzhou city, Zhejiang Province, China, on Oct. 29, 2020. (Aly Song/Reuters)

HONG KONG—Ant Group’s $37 billion listing has been suspended in both Shanghai and Hong Kong on Nov. 3 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 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 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 on Nov. 5 after raising about $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.

At the end of October, Ma had called financial regulation outdated and badly suited to companies trying to use technology to drive financial innovation.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 percent in premarket trading after news of the Shanghai stock exchange suspension of Ant’s A-share IPO.

By Meg Shen and Julie Zhu