China foils world’s largest stock listing 48 hours before kick-off as Ant Group delays market debut in Shanghai and Hong Kong

China foils world’s largest stock listing 48 hours before kick-off as Ant Group delays market debut in Shanghai and Hong Kong

China’s regulators have foiled the largest stock sale in global finance as they called a halt on the November 5 debut of Ant Group’s shares on the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges, less than 48 hours before the highly anticipated start of trading.

A meeting earlier this week between Ant Group’s senior executives and China’s top financial regulators led to “significant change” to Ant’s business environment, which may result in the fintech company not fulfilling the listing requirements or disclosure rules, according to Ant Group’s statement to the two bourses.

As a result, the trading debut of the company would be postponed, Ant Group said in its statement to the Hong Kong exchange, adding that it would announce further details “relating to the suspension … and the refund of the application monies” as soon as possible. The Hangzhou-based company, an affiliate of this newspaper’s owner Alibaba Group Holding, is raising up to US$39.67 billion in the world’s largest initial public offering in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

“China risk just shot through the roof,” said the chief investment officer of a North American pension fund, who declined to be named.

Alibaba, which owns one-third of Ant’s shares, plunged by as much as 9.7 per cent in New York to US$280.78, the biggest intraday drop since March 16. Lufax, an online financial services platform operator backed by Ping An Insurance, plummeted 13.1 per cent to US$11.99. Tencent dropped 3.1 per cent to US$75.10.