The sequence of events that led to Ant Group’s IPO being suspended happened so fast, and many theories / commentaries / analyses have tried to depict what really went on.

Some are saying that it is a calculated (and brilliant) move by Jack Ma to reach a compromise with regulators to secure Ant’s place in the post-tightening world, and blocking other potential competitors by setting the bar really high; some are saying that Jack Ma essentially slapped on the face of the Vice President, which triggered a revenge operation; there are also (much more naive) theories that this is again an example of Chinese State’s disregard on private company’s rights.

It is worth noting that some of the theories might carry their creators’ own agenda: investment bankers hoping that the IPO can be put back on track soon; Ant executives who try to brush off the severity of the events; and detractors who believe that Ant is, ultimately, evil.

However, many of the theories are, in our opinion, guesses at best. The following article by Reuters is probably the closest to the truth:

Higher (maybe supreme) power at play

Regulators in China, as we understand, are usually quite reasonable. And like their counterparts in many countries, they face an uneasy job of maintaining the safety (and trust) of the system, while promoting (or at least not blocking) innovation.

While they have been uneasy about Ant’s gearing ratio for its lending products. You can find similar unease expressed in regulations about internet based lending companies in general. However, Ant was hard to touch – unless there is green light from the top. So this is the moment many regulators had been waiting for.

One clue for that – financial regulators had no control over Xinhua News Agency, which published a veiled stern warning to Jack Ma. Those who understand China’s political system would know that only a much higher power can authorise such an article.

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.

 

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