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Capital Markets

Ant’s miserable Christmas and unhappy new year

After seeing its IPO scratched, China’s Ant Group may have thought that things couldn’t get any worse. But they have, as Beijing takes a hammer to the humbled financial technology firm.

Ant Group Headquarters as Fintech Giant Plans $17.5 Billion Hong Kong IPO
Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A year that began with such high hopes for Ant Group ended with all the festive cheer of a man standing in an empty room blowing glumly into a kazoo.

China often releases big news in the dead days between Christmas and New Year, while the West is sleeping off the turkey and general overindulgence.

So, it was no surprise over the festive period to see rumours emerge of Beijing’s plans to carve up the Hangzhou based financial technology firm in the wake of its decision in November to cancel Ant’s $34.4 billion IPO.

The most likely outcome, sources say, is for Ant to be split into two vehicles, with one holding its consumer lending business and an assortment of other financial services, and the other its technology and data.

This would put its faster-growing units, including CreditTech, which channels capital from banks and other third-party providers to consumers and firms – and accounts for around 40% of group revenues – under the aegis of the central bank.

That in turn will force Ant, which operates like a bank without being regulated like one, to adhere to stricter controls on risk, governance and capital adequacy, including funding at least 30% of any loan it makes, against 2% at present.

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