China's halt of Ant IPO 'necessary': state media

Chinese state media sounded off on Wednesday (November 4) after Beijing hit the brakes on what was expected to be the biggest stock market debut in history.

Ant Group was set for a $37 billion dollar listing.

A digital payment company spun off from tech titan Alibaba, it was due to sell shares in Shanghai and Hong Kong this week but China dramatically blocked the listing at the last minute.

'Necessary, reasonable, and legal,' was the assessment of the move by one expert in a top Chinese state-backed newspaper on Wednesday.

Ant has built an empire connecting borrowers and lenders, handing out short-term loans within minutes thanks to an AI-powered system.

In recent years, there's been more public discussions in China about tech firms moving into the financial space, with worries over fair competition and data privacy.

The IPO was put on ice after a meeting between Ant's billionaire founder Jack Ma and China's financial regulators.

Reuters sources say Ma and his top executives were told their online lending business would face tighter scrutiny.

At an event last month attended by Chinese regulators, Ma disparaged global financial regulation.

A person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that Ant believes Ma's public criticism put him in officials' crosshairs.

The Executive Director of Kinston Financial Group, Dickie Wong, said on Wednesday the case was a reminder of Beijing's influence over Chinese companies.

"Now we have to calculate those regulation risks. Because when Chinese officials say, you cannot do this, or you cannot do that, definitely you cannot do, so this is a risk we have to recalculate."

The topic 'Ant Group's IPO suspended' was the top trending topic on China's Twitter-like Weibo Wednesday with more than half a million discussions.

Some said that while regulators had closed one eye to Ant's rapid growth in the past, its IPO meant they no longer could, since the company's risks would shift toward shareholders and the public.

Ant has apologised to investors and pledged to work closely with regulators.