What was set to become the biggest initial public offering (IPO) in the world – the floating of Chinese business giant Alibaba’s fintech and blockchain arm Ant Group – could well be back on at some point in the future, the nation’s central bank boss has hinted.
Yi Gang, the governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), was speaking during a session named Strengthening the Financial and Monetary System at the World Economic Forum today. The moderator of the panel – Financial Times editor Roula Khalaf – asked him why the Ant Group IPO had been “stopped.”
Yi Gang replied,
“It’s a complicated issue. Everything is ruled by law, we must follow legal procedure.”
He added that an investigation of monopoly issues was ongoing and added that IPO regulatory authorities had likely “found a problem,” insisting that “all must be done according to the legal framework.” He also suggested that privacy-related issues may have played a role.
But when Khalaf asked him directly if the Ant IPO would “go ahead,” the governor refused to rule out the possibility, suggesting that “once problems are solved,” and “legal framework was “followed,” “you will have the result.”
Beijing officially stated that IPO, which had been on course to raise a projected USD 37bn, had been blocked due to new regulations that require internet platform providers to stump up a greater amount of the funding for loans they arrange.
But observers have claimed that the government was actually worried about Ant’s growing influence in the financial sector. The firm runs Alipay, which, along with WeChat Pay, is already responsible for a combined 15% of the current Chinese payments market.
And the international community has also speculated that the growing influence of Alibaba boss Jack Ma, who has all but vanished from the public view since the IPO was blocked late last year, barring a brief and inconclusive video appearance last week. In October, he made comments critical of the government, a move that is thought to have sparked ire in Beijing.
The tech world – and blockchain sector – has been asking “What happened to Jack Ma?” If Yi Gang’s comments are to be taken literally, we may all be on the verge of finding out.
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