Ant IPO could resume once issues resolved: China's central bank

Chinese regulators are asking Ant to work on a timetable to overhaul its business after abruptly halting its US$35 billion IPO.
Chinese regulators are asking Ant to work on a timetable to overhaul its business after abruptly halting its US$35 billion IPO.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Ant Group could resume its plans for an initial public offering once problems are resolved, China's central bank chief said, offering some relief to global investors seeking signs on what the future holds for the world's largest fintech giant.

People's Bank of China Governor Yi Gang said relevant agencies are still investigating issues related to monopolies at Alibababillionaire Jack Ma's Ant Group, adding that the matters were "complicated" and some risks were related to consumer privacy. To resolve the problems, regulators need a clear legal framework, Mr Yi said on a panel at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday (Jan 26).

"I would say that this is a process and also once the problem solved, it will go back to the track to continue consideration according to law," Mr Yi said in English.

Chinese regulators are asking Ant to work on a timetable to overhaul its business after abruptly halting its US$35 billion (S$46.4 billion) IPO in November. The fate of Mr Ma's sprawling fintech empire remains uncertain after China issued a slew of draft rules that threatened to curb growth for some of Ant's most lucrative businesses.

The message from Mr Yi is the latest sign that Ant has avoided a worst-case scenario where it needs to shutter businesses completely. Mr Ma resurfaced in January, ending a months-long period away from public view that fuelled intense speculation about his plight.

While regulators stopped short of directly asking for a breakup of the company in December, the central bank stressed that Ant needs to "understand the necessity of overhauling" and come up with a timetable as soon as possible.