How billionaire Jack Ma fell to earth and took Ant’s mega IPO with him

SINGAPORE/HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – They say talk is cheap. Tell that to Jack Ma.

Corporate China’s shiniest star was just days away from seeing his Ant Group list on the stock market in a record $37 billion deal, when he chose to launch a blistering public attack on the country’s financial watchdogs and banks.

The regulatory system was stifling innovation and must be reformed to fuel growth, billionaire Ma told a summit in Shanghai on Oct. 24 attended by the great and the good of China’s financial, regulatory and political establishment.

Chinese banks, he said, operated with a “pawnshop” mentality.

It was this speech that set off a chain of events that ultimately torpedoed the listing of Ant, the fintech titan Ma founded, according to interviews with government officials, company executives and investors. They all requested anonymity to disclose confidential details.

Stung by the attack, Chinese regulators and Communist Party officials set about reining in Ma’s sprawling financial empire, culminating in the suspension of the IPO on Tuesday, two days before the eagerly awaited market debut in Shanghai and Hong Kong, the sources said.

While Ma might not have realised the impact his words would have, people close to him had been baffled to learn in advance about the tone of the speech he planned to deliver, according to two sources close to Ma.

They suggested the 56-year-old soften his remarks as some of China’s most senior financial regulators were due to attend, but he refused to budge, believing he should be able to say what he wanted, the sources said.

“Jack is Jack. He just wanted to speak his mind,” said one of the people.http://How billionaire Jack Ma fell to earth and took Ant’s mega IPO with him. Read more

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