Ahead of Ant Group Co Ltd's public listing of shares, its co-founder Jack Ma and senior executives have been warned by China over the fintech giant's rapid expansion plan. Jack Ma, one of China's most powerful businessmen, and Ant Group's chairman Eric Jing and its president Hu Xiaoming were summoned to a rare joint meeting on Monday by Chinese regulators.
As per the statement issued on Monday, the People's Bank of China, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, the Securities Regulatory Commission and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange said they had conducted "regulatory interviews" with Ma, Ant Group's executives Eric Jing and Hu Xiaoming. Though the details of the meeting were not disclosed by the authorities or Ant Group, but such move by regulators is typically seen as a warning or dressing down of sorts.
The regulator's move comes just days before the company's shares are slated to start trading following a blockbuster initial public offering (IPO) expected to be the world's largest. The company has raised at least $34.5 billion in the world's biggest stock sale, surpassing Saudi Aramco's $29.4 billion listing last December. Backed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, Ant shares will list simultaneously in Hong Kong and on Shanghai's STAR Market on November 5.
"Views regarding the health and stability of the financial sector were exchanged," Ant Group said in a statement.
"Ant Group is committed to implementing the meeting opinions in depth and continuing our course based on the principles of: stable innovation; embrace of regulation; service to the real economy; and win-win cooperation," it said.
"We will continue to improve our capabilities to provide inclusive services and promote economic development to improve the lives of ordinary citizens," it added.
Chinese fintech major Ant Group is 33 per cent owned by Jack Ma-led e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding. It operates Alipay, the world's largest and most valuable financial technology company and one of two dominant Chinese digital wallets in China, the other being rival Tencent's WeChat Pay.
The company has come under increased scrutiny and tighter regulation as it has expanded the range of financial technology services it offers. Among the new regulations are caps on the use of asset-backed securities to fund consumer loans, new capital and licensing requirements and caps on lending rates. On Monday, the Chinese central bank raised the registered capital requirement for lenders like Ant to a minimum of 5 billion yuan ($747 million).
By Chitranjan Kumar with PTI inputs