Angered Over Jack Ma's Scathing Criticism Of Chinese Regulations, Xi Jinping Personally Scuttled Ant IPO: ReportXi Jinping (DALE DE LA REY/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping personally scuttled Ant Group's $37-billion (£28 billion) initial public offering, the Wall Street Journal reported citing Chinese officials with knowledge of the matter.

Jack Ma, the founder of Ant Group, is said to have earned the wrath of Chinese leadership for launching a public attack on the country's financial watchdogs, regulatory landscape and state-owned banks.

According to the WSJ report, President Xi ordered Chinese regulators to investigate and effectively shut down Ant's stock market flotation.

Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co. was slated for initial public offerings in both Shanghai and Hong Kong. The dual listing was expected to create history by surpassing Saudi Aramco’s record $29 billion share sale in 2019.

The decision to stop what was touted to be the world's largest ever IPO was a culmination of years of troubled relations between Jack Ma and Communist party leadership that was deeply worried by the influence wielded by him and the meteoric growth of the digital-payments behemoth he controlled.

During an address he delivered at Bund Summit in Shanghai on Oct 24, Ma criticised the regulatory system for stifling innovation and called for new set of regulatory reform to fuel growth.

Ma argued that China’s biggest problem was the lack of a functioning financial system. He said China’s financial system is still dominated by big state banks, and it is in need of other technology-driven channels to provide funds efficiently in a vast economic system.

China is still a “youth” and needs more innovation to build an ecosystem for the healthy development of the local industry, Ma stated.

The speech is said to have angered Chinese leadership and set off a chain of events that torpedoed the listing of Ant.

Soon after Ma's scathing attack on the regulatory constraints, state regulators began compiling reports including one on how Ant had used digital financial products like Huabei, a virtual credit card service, to encourage poor and young people to build up debt.

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