China is showing Jack Ma who’s boss.
The decision to pull the world’s biggest IPO just two days before its estimated $52 billion debut on stock exchanges in Shanghai and Hong Kong looks like madness for any country trying to promote itself as a world-class financial hub.
But this is no ordinary country.
The suspension of fintech giant Ant Group’s listing follows a dressing-down for its founders and top executives by four of China’s top financial regulators on Monday.
While there are genuine concerns in China about overconsumption as the country’s Millennials get access to cheap, online lending, the timing of the move so close to the listing date clearly means something else is going on.
Ma’s wealth and enormous international profile have always meant he has to walk a fine line between being a successful capitalist without offending his Communist masters. Until now, Ant has also managed to avoid treading on the toes of China’s state-controlled banks by billing itself as a technology company.