Senator Mark Rubio didn’t need to seek help from the U.S. to pause Ant Financial’s IPO in Hong Kong and Shanghai—regulators in China have done it themselves.
On Tuesday, Chinese regulators in Shanghai suspended the Alibaba unit’s estimated $37 billion IPO, citing “changes in the financial technology regulatory environment and other major issues.” Concerns that Ant Financial was too lightly regulated have been long-standing.
So what may have tipped the scales just on the eve of an IPO? Well, per my colleague Robert Hackett, Alibaba cofounder Jack Ma spoke out against the incumbent banking system in a recent speech, “comparing its institutions to stingy pawnshops,” which apparently didn’t land so well with Chinese authorities. And, well, Ant Financial poses a potential threat to the government’s control and dominance.
The delay could also force Ant Financial to reshuffle some of its business operations and face a ding to its expected $300 billion-plus valuation. Chinese financial regulators drafted rules earlier this week cracking down on the micro-lending market that could hit the profits of companies like Ant Financial.
Oh. There’s also this: The rival to Alibaba’s food delivery business, Meituan Dianping, which is now worth $238 billion on the Hong Kong stock exchange, is reportedly weighing a secondary listing in China as soon as next year. The company, whose shares have more than tripled in the last year alone, is backed by Alibaba competitor Tencent. Alibaba and Tencent have adopted walled gardens in their ecosystems as they battle for dominance in China, with Meituan Dianping removing the former’s Alipay from its payment options. Don’t forget: Alibaba used to also be an investor in Meituan Dianping.
THE RED AND BLUE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: While U.S. presidential and Senate races remain unclear, some initiatives impacting the venture and tech industries have results in.
Most notably, companies like Uber, Lyft, Postmates, and Instacart won a vote in California that would allow them to continue classifying drivers as independent contractors rather than as employees. The latter classification would have resulted in more comprehensive benefits to gig-economy workers and forced the companies to reconsider their business models. The companies fought hard against it: Dubbed Prop 22, the campaign was the most expensive among ballot measures in the state’s history, with gig-economy companies paying some $200 million to help pass the initiative. The win has implications beyond California: States such as New York and Illinois have also considered laws classifying gig economy workers as employees.
Oregon, meanwhile, became the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cocaine, heroine, and methamphetamine whilst also legalizing psychedelics such as magic mushrooms for those 21 and over. Arizona, New Jersey, Montana, and South Dakota have voted to legalize recreational marijuana use. And Mississippi voted to legalize marijuana for medical use.