Beijing not reviewing IPO of Ma’s Ant Group

BEIJING: Beijing has rebuffed reports it has started discussions on the potential revival of an initial public offering (IPO) for financial giant Ant Group after the bumper listing was scuttled in a crackdown on China’s technology sector.

The record-breaking share offering by Alibaba’s digital payments affiliate was pulled at the last minute in 2020 and the company was later hit with a $2.75-billion fine over alleged unfair trading practices.

But following signs in recent weeks that the crackdown may be easing, Bloomberg reported last Thursday that financial regulators had started talks on relaunching the initial public offering.

Citing a source familiar with the matter, Bloomberg said the state regulator had established a team to assess Ant’s share sale plans and was close to issuing a long-awaited license to regulate the company more like a bank.

But authorities appeared to pour cold water on those claims later that day.

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The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) said in a brief statement that no work had begun.

The regulator “has not conducted an evaluation and research work in this regard, but we support eligible platform companies to list at home and abroad,” it said.

Ant Group, which was founded by China’s most famous billionaire, Jack Ma, denied any plan to relaunch the IPO after the commission stated its position.

“Under the guidance of regulators, we are focused on steadily moving forward with our rectification work and do not have any plan to initiate an IPO,” Ant said in a statement on its WeChat account.

Ma has largely disappeared from public view in China after giving a speech that appeared to criticize state regulators just before the planned IPO.

Chinese tech stocks have soared in recent weeks on reports that the authorities are preparing to wrap up a probe into ride-hailing giant Didi.

Didi, once seen as China’s answer to Uber, found itself in hot water after plowing ahead with an IPO in the United States last June, reportedly against the wishes of regulators in Beijing.

Official guidance in recent days has called for more “predictable regulation” of the tech sector.