Ant Group’s £26bn float suspended at 11th hour  

Ant Group’s blockbuster float was dramatically called off by Chinese authorities yesterday after the firm’s boss seemingly clashed with officials.

In an extraordinary statement that caught markets off-guard, the Shanghai Stock Exchange said it had suspended the payment group’s listing because of ‘major issues’, including changes to finance regulations.

Ant’s shares had been due to start trading in Shanghai and Hong Kong tomorrow raising £26billion – the world’s biggest ever float.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange said it had suspended Ant Group's listing because of 'major issues', including changes to finance regulations

The Shanghai Stock Exchange said it had suspended Ant Group's listing because of 'major issues', including changes to finance regulations

The Shanghai Stock Exchange said it had suspended Ant Group’s listing because of ‘major issues’, including changes to finance regulations

But the last-minute decision threw the process into chaos, with Ant confirming soon afterwards that it had paused its listing plans in Hong Kong as well.

A day previously Ant founder Jack Ma was summoned for questioning by China’s central bank, securities regulator and other agencies.

He had recently accused the country’s state-owned lenders of being outdated while speaking at a business event with officials from several of the financial institutions sitting in the audience.

Ma, China’s richest entrepreneur, claimed they were stifling innovation with a ‘pawn shop’ mentality to making loans that placed too much importance on collateral – comments analysts said would have irked authorities.

The 56-year-old, along with Ant executive chairman Eric Jing, 47, were subsequently interviewed by the People’s Bank of China and three other regulators on Monday, with the company later saying they discussed ‘the health and stability of the financial sector’ as well as new financial regulations being put into force.

Ant apologised to investors and said it would wait for more information from regulators.

Francis Lun, boss of Hong Kong-based Geo Securities, said: ‘The Communist Party has shown the tycoons who’s boss.’

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