The previously reported reasons the highly coveted IPO didn’t go forward were that president Xi Jinping was furious with Ma for making remarks criticizing government regulation last October, and that the government overall was concerned with how Ant was growing as a company.
WSJ writes that there were previously unreported investigations weeks before the IPO was scheduled to take place which showed that the Ant IPO filing had obscured the actual complex nature of its ownership. Instead, WSJ writes that there were numerous well-connected Chinese power players behind the initial layer of investment vehicles which owned stakes in the company. Some of the aforementioned power players reportedly were linked to families that could challenge President Xi and his inner circle.
The individuals and Ma would have all stood to benefit tremendously with billions of dollars from the IPO. The IPO, which would’ve been the largest in history, was to value Ant at over $300 billion.
A spokesman for Ant said the details were “fully disclosed” in the prospects and public business registration, WSJ writes.
Regulators had been worried about Ant’s prospects before the government began looking into things, with the company’s ownership of mobile pay app Alipay being a chief cause for such worry, as it gave Ant access to data from consumers’ spending habits, borrowing behaviors and bill and loan payments.
After much strife between Ant and the government, an agreement was recently reached to turn Ant into more of a financial holding company, which will subject it to rules like those banks follow. This move will make it so Ant’s diverse array of offerings, including things like food delivery and blockchain, will now fall under regulations.