Jack Ma was poised to become Asia’s richest person with Ant Group Co.’s initial public offering. Instead, his net worth tumbled almost $3 billion and both retail and institutional investors who were betting on a big first-day pop are in limbo.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s U.S.-traded shares slid 8.1% in New York, the most since January, 2015, after Ant said its listings in both Shanghai and Hong Kong have been suspended. The Hong Kong stock fell as much as 9.3% in early local trading.
Ma, a 56-year-old former English teacher who co-founded Alibaba with $60,000 and turned it into China’s largest e-commerce company, would have leaped up the wealth rankings with Ant’s planned $34.5 billion share sale. At the IPO price, his stake was worth $27.4 billion.
The stock sale was the most anticipated in years, attracting at least $3 trillion in orders for its dual listing. The stampede for shares had fueled predictions of a big first-day jump and sparked a frenzy among individual investors in China clamoring for a piece. The IPO would also have boosted the fortunes of a group of early investors and employees, with more than a dozen other people slated to become billionaires.
Ma owns 4.2% of Alibaba, which holds about a third of the fintech company that was expected to begin trading on Thursday. The Shanghai stock exchange suspended Ant’s listing after Ma was called in for “supervisory interviews” by related agencies, it said in a statement Tuesday. Soon after, Ant said the Hong Kong offering was frozen.
Even with Tuesday’s drop, Ma still has a fortune of about $58 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Ant’s other wealthy backers include Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing, the family behind a French supermarket giant, the son of a Taiwanese real estate billionaire and Chinese retail tycoon Shen Guojun.
Ant, which has granted staff share-based awards since 2014, was poised to become a huge creator of wealth, with at least 18 people becoming billionaires. Lucy Peng, a director at the payments giant through August and the biggest individual Ant owner after Ma, would have had a fortune of about $5 billion, while Chairman Eric Jing’s stake was worth $3.1 billion at the IPO price. Along with Peng, six other female leaders would have reached billionaire status.