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What It Would Take for Jack Ma’s Ant to Reboot an IPO

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China Regulator Says Not Working on Ant IPO Revival

Two years ago, Chinese regulators torpedoed Ant Group Co.’s would-be record initial public offering, sending shock waves across global capital markets. New rules have been slapped on the fintech giant, which has operations ranging from consumer lending to wealth management to online payments. The result is that the once-fertile landscape for web-based financial services has drastically changed as part of a government effort to bring the entire technology sector to heel. Now the big question is whether Ant -- controlled by billionaire Jack Ma, China’s most-famous entrepreneur -- will get another chance at going public.

The most important thing it needs is to set up a financial holding company, like a regular bank. Its application to the central bank for such a license is nearing the final stages of approval, people familiar with the matter said in June. Ant then would need a sign-off from the China Securities Regulatory Commission to list in either Shanghai or Hong Kong (the scotched 2020 plan was to list in both cities simultaneously). While not officially part of the process, in reality it also would need blessings from senior Chinese leaders and a wide range of government agencies. That includes the Financial Stability and Development Committee, which is led by President Xi Jinping’s confidante, Vice Premier Liu He. The central bank and finance ministry are part of this group.