Yi Gang, the veteran central bank chief of the People’s Bank of China, is no stranger to difficult questions. But when asked by Roula Khalaf, the editor of the Financial Times, whether a fellow Chinese regulator made a mistake by initially approving the Ant Financial initial public offering, he was at a loss for words.
Forward to the 37:15 minute mark of this World Economic Forum event to see Yi’s stammering response before allowing that it was a “complicated issue.” Yi, who has a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and taught at Indiana University, said consumers so far have been unaffected by the IPO delay. The company has to address monopoly and privacy issues, but Yi said after the “problems are solved it will go back to the track to continue consideration according to law.”
Pressed on whether that means an IPO, Yi said if the company follows the legal structure, “you will have the result.”
Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba
and controlling shareholder of Ant Group, last week made his first public appearance since the high-profile scuttling of the Ant Financial IPO. Ma had made critical comments about financial regulation in China ahead of what would have been the largest IPO of all time.
Ant Financial’s Alipay and Tencent’s
WeChatPay are the dominant players in China’s digital payments landscape.