China's central bank says Ant's IPO suspension is to safeguard consumer, investor interests

BEIJING (Reuters) - The decision to suspend Ant Group’s planned initial public offering in China was based on a comprehensive consideration about safeguarding the interests of financial consumers and investors, a senior central bank official said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of Ant Group is pictured at the headquarters of the company, an affiliate of Alibaba, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China October 29, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

China halted the $37 billion listing on Tuesday, thwarting the world’s largest stock market debut with just days to go in a dramatic blow to the financial technology and online consumer lending firm founded by billionaire Jack Ma.

The move comes amid broader efforts by Chinese policymakers to prevent systemic financial risks and curb rising debt. It has thrown the company and its investors into a tailspin and its executives are now racing to satisfy tighter regulations.

“The decision was made in accordance with laws and regulations... and about maintaining stable, healthy market development in the long term,” Liu Guoqiang, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), told reporters.

At the media briefing, Liang Tao, vice chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), echoed Liu’s view.

“The CBIRC also supports this decision made by the Shanghai Stock Exchange,” Liang said. “Any listed company must comply with the requirements of relevant laws and regulations.”

The remarks from Liang and Liu were the first public comments from the two regulators on Ant’s IPO suspension.

Ant was set to make its market debut in Hong Kong and Shanghai on Thursday.

Liang also said CBIRC hopes all business entities would “remain in compliance with laws and regulations when doing business with and cooperating” with Ant.

“We encourage the financial sector to explore reasonable innovation while put risks under control,” Liang told reporters.

“At the same time, we will regulate fintech in accordance with its nature of finance, and include all financial activities into the regulatory framework.”

Reporting by Martin Pollard and Ryan Woo; Writing by Cheng Leng; Editing by Kim Coghill