Jack Ma was about to set the record for the world’s biggest ever IPO for the second time this month. When Alibaba floated in 2014 it was the biggest public offering ever on Wall Street. Ant Group, which started life 16 years ago as a digital payment platform on Alibaba, planned to list for $37bn in Shanghai and Hong Kong in early November. Just days before the IPO, Chinese authorities halted proceedings citing “major issues”. The question now is whether the issues are just about financial regulation, or really much bigger? Is the truth that China has decided it doesn’t have room for an entrepreneur as powerful and independent as Jack Ma?
The implications of Ant’s extraordinary scale are significant across the world. It is by itself one of the biggest technology firms in the world and has established services across the financial board in China, from investments and savings to insurance and credit. Chinese fintech will change the way the whole world does business. Ma’s Twitter profile describes himself as a “teacher, philanthropist, entrepreneur”. At 56, he is China’s richest man with a personal net worth of over $50bn according to Forbes. The IPO of Ant may be off for now, but is he still the world’s greatest entrepreneur?
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Co-founder and Editor
International journalist and broadcaster who has reported extensively on China and Hong Kong. She is founder and editor of China Dialogue, an independent, non-profit organisation based in London, Beijing and San Francisco. She has reported from China, South Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Europe and has written and presented several documentaries for BBC radio and television.
Founder, investor and leading advisor on China’s dynamic technology and consumer sectors, Duncan is a recognised expert on the internet and entrepreneurship in China. He has lived and worked in Beijing and Shanghai for more than 20 years. He is author of Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built, the definitive work on China’s e-commerce and technology giant, its founder Jack Ma, and the forces and people that propelled its rise.