The head of the Chinese central bank has flagged the possibility that Jack Ma’s Ant Group could still launch a successful IPO following the cancellation of the dual-listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong that was originally scheduled for November last year.
With regard to whether Ant Group’s IPO could be relaunched, People’s Bank of China (PBOC) governor Yi Gang said that “abiding by regular legal procedures will have good results.”
“As long as we uphold all legal frameworks and procedures, and engage in widespread consultation with the public, I think that we will return to the right path with regard to the resolution of problems,” said Yi on 27 January at the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Davos Agenda.
Yi said that while surveys conducted by the Chinese central bank found that customer satisfaction with Ant Group was still high, the company still had problems with regard to issues such as privacy protection.
The remarks from Yi arrive shortly after PBOC announced on 15 January that Ant Group had established a special “rectification team” to address the grievances of regulators.
Jack Ma’s e-commerce and fintech empire has come under heavy pressure from Chinese authorities ever since the cancellation of Ant Group’s IPO, with observers pointing to concern over Ma’s outspokenness in relation to regulatory actions as well as the highly leveraged character of Ant Group’s lending operations.
At the start of November 2020 Chinese regulators scuppered Ant Group’s proposed dual listing on the Shanghai and Hong Kong bourses at the last minute. The IPO, which was originally scheduled for 5 November, was expected to raise a record-breaking USD$34.4 billion.
On 24 December the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) announced via its official website the launch of an investigation into monopolistic conduct by Jack Ma’s e-commerce platform Alibaba, while PBOC also summoned Ant Group for a round of disciplinary “regulatory discussions.”
Pan Gongsheng (潘功胜), PBOC deputy governor and director of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), said at a subsequent press conference that Chinese regulators demanded that Ant Group “return to its payment origins,” and that in the past the company had “regarded regulatory compliance demands with disdain.”