Beijing is investigating how Jack Ma won speedy approvals for Ant Group’s stock listing last year, reported the Wall Street Journal.
The central-government investigation, which started early this year, focuses on regulators who greenlighted the initial public offering, local officials who advocated it and big state firms that stood to gain from it. Ma’s relationships with these state stalwarts are being examined as part of the scrutiny, according to WSJ sources with knowledge of the matter.
The probe means uncertainty continues to loom over the future of Ant and controlling shareholder Ma. He won’t be allowed to leave China until Ant completes a business overhaul ordered by regulators and the government’s investigation is over, the WSJ sources say.
Ma managed to push the Ant IPO application through various levels of securities regulators in a relatively short time—even as banking regulators were voicing concerns about the business model and were preparing tougher regulations for companies like Ant. The wait to be listed in China is often many months or longer.