So Ant Group’s IPO has been suspended by Shanghai Stock Exchange, in a move that really surprised everyone, us included.

We still feel that it is not in the interest of Chinese regulators to derail Ant’s IPO. Regulating Ant is probably easier than regulating hundreds if not thousands of small lenders. However, regulators need to make sure that Ant can be under regulatory control, instead of becoming too big to rein in.

Now it seems that it is more likely that its consumer lending business, a key revenue/profit driver, will take a hit and be subject to greater regulatory scrutiny. As retail investors are rushing into buying Ant shares, the government might also be worried that the any future action will cause the prices to slide, hurting millions of small investors.

Anyway, some friends of us had picked up a hint from a cryptic article shared on Xinhua News Agency (the official news agency of China) the same night after the Ant trio was summoned by the four regulators.

The article, titled “Night read | Don’t talk casually, don’t do things casually, and people should not be casual, seems to be a normal piece of chicken soup. However, our sharp-eyed (and also politically sensitive) friends picked up this painting quoted in the article:

The painting, from Japanese artist Kaii Higashiyama, shows a horse in the clouds. You might know that Jack Ma’s name in Chinese is Ma Yun(马云)-  Literally 马 means horse, and 云 means clouds. 

The line immediately above the painting, inside the article, said: “Everything has its costs, if you do not have the capital, please do not do whatever you want”.

Capital here can be interpreted as more than just financial capital.

This is seemingly bizarre and message cryptic, but the target of the lecture can’t be more obvious.

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at hello@mworks.asia.