Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly personally nixed the Ant Group double initial public offering (IPO), which had been set to be the biggest in the world, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
The shutdown of the IPO happened after controlling shareholder Jack Ma upset government leaders, WSJ reported, quoting unnamed sources familiar with the situation. Xi’s decision topped off several years of contention between Ma and the government, with government leaders unsure of the growing influence of Ma’s business operations.
On Oct. 24, Ma quoted Xi in a speech, saying “Success does not have to come from me,” WSJ reported. He used this as a springboard to critique what he perceived as too much regulation from the government.
Government officials, WSJ reported, took umbrage to this and were “furious.” Xi then reportedly ordered Chinese regulators to investigate and “all but shut down” the IPO.
That led to the IPO being suspended on Nov. 3, despite the fact that global investors had already invested over $34 billion for shares in the company.
Now, with the IPO frozen in place, Ma will face more regulation as the government announced earlier this month that it would be bringing financial activities under one regulatory umbrella, PYMNTS reported. Both the company’s micro-lending business and its ability to let companies partner with traditional financial institutions could face more regulation.
With the IPO trouble, Ant Group’s valuation could possibly be cut in half, falling to $140 billion, PYMNTS reported.
Xi rose to power in 2012, and government crackdowns ensued in the following years aimed at high-profile private conglomerates like Wang Jianlin, once China’s richest man, of Dalian Wanda Group, and Anbang Insurance Group’s Wu Xiaohui, according to WSJ.
One senior official said Xi “doesn’t care about if you made any of those rich lists or not,” WSJ reported. He is instead is focused on “what you do after you get rich” and whether a company’s interests are in line with the state’s.