Alibaba (BABA) shares, which have risen 34.64 percent since the beginning of the year, closed on Tuesday with a sharp drop of 8.13 percent. The reason for this is its biggest ownership crisis. Alibaba owns approximately 33 percent of Ant Group, which was once its affiliate and was later known as an independent entity.
Ant Group, China’s largest fintech firm, was preparing to go public this Thursday, holding a double listing on the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges. The IPO of Ant Group attracted record interest among investors, as it was expected to be the largest in history, ahead of Saudi Aramco’s previous record, attracting approximately $34.5 billion.
But on Tuesday, the Shanghai Stock Exchange suspended the IPO of Ant Group, citing on Monday a statement by the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission that the management of the firm, including founder Jack Ma and chief executive Eric Jing and CEO Simon Hu, had been summoned and interviewed in China by regulators. An “important change” in the regulatory climate was expressed as the official explanation for the suspension. Since then, Ant Group has reported that the Hong Kong listing has also been suspended.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma made many critiques of China’s financial regulator late last month. A new draft of online microcredit rules was released by China’s central bank and regulators on Monday. The Ant Group is not a financial institution, but it provides users (both private individuals and small businesses) with lending opportunities through partnerships with about 100 banks, including all major national banks in China, through its convenient digital platform.
Bloomberg, citing anonymous sources, says that the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission’s new regulatory standards could be the reason why banks and other companies will refuse to use the Ant platforms.
At the same time, Ant Group and similar digital platforms may be required to provide at least 30% of loan financing, which is far from the current reality of approximately 2% of their own balance sheet, as the remainder of approximately 98% is financed by third parties including banks and other partner financial institutions. The exact cause has not yet been identified, but Sam Radwan, CEO of consulting firm Enhance International,believes Jack Ma’s comments may have played a role in suspending Ant Group’s IPO. Ant Group has become too large a microcredit market player in the region, not even being a bank, but earning high commissions. The government could see such control over the financial instruments of a country as an “invasion of their territory” and a “systemic danger” to the economy.