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Counting the cost of Ant’s torpedoed IPO


Nobody had more to lose from the suspension of the Ant float than the bookrunners, in particular the joint sponsors. They had closed books on a record deal that looked good not just for them and Ant but for the Greater China capital markets. There are many questions about what happens next: how should Ant be reshaped to revive the listing and who should share the blame for not responding to shifting regulatory sands?

Will nobody think of the underwriters?

Amid the fallout from the halted Ant Group IPO there have been many constituencies to consider: Ant founder Jack Ma; the Ant Group staff; the regulators and the Chinese Communist Party; the stock exchanges in Shanghai and Hong Kong; and the baffled would-be investors, local and international, retail and institutional.

But nobody is more nonplussed than the bookrunners, who perhaps had more to lose than anyone from all this.

The banks were looking forward to being part of a landmark; not just the biggest-ever IPO but a symbol of China and Asia rising in world markets, where record-breaking sums could be raised without troubling a US or European exchange.

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Chris Wright is Asia editor. He covers the Asia Pacific region and is based in Singapore. He has previously been Middle East editor of Euromoney, editor of Asiamoney, investment editor of the Australian Financial Review and a correspondent on emerging markets and sovereign wealth for numerous publications worldwide. He has also written two books.
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