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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

China is the biggest business story on Election Day in America.

What's happening: The country abruptly pulled the plug on Ant Group's IPO, which was expected to happen Thursday and be the biggest public offering ever.

Why it matters: Although the IPO would have helped catapult the financial industry toward China, the country suspended the offering at the last minute in an apparent rebuke to billionaire Jack Ma, Ant's controlling shareholder.

  • The anticipated $35 billion offering would have also been a landmark moment for Xi Jinping's nascent Nasdaq-like "STAR" stock exchange.

How we got here:

  • Aug. 24: Ant files IPO prospectus.
  • Sep. 16: China’s banking watchdog issues new rules to cap the use of asset-backed securities to fund quick consumer loans — a move that impacted Ant.
  • Oct. 18: China securities commission gives Ant the green light for its IPO plan.
  • Oct. 21: Hong Kong's exchange approves Ant IPO.
  • Oct. 25: Ma gives a speech criticizing international banking regulations, saying the rules are being enforced by "an old people's club."
  • Oct. 26: Ant discloses plan to raise $34.4 billion in the IPO, or roughly $17.2 billion in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
  • Nov. 2: The Wall Street Journal and other outlets report Ma, along with Ant Groups' chairman and CEO, met with four regulatory bodies in China — including its central bank.
  • Today: The Shanghai Stock Exchange says Ant no longer meets the requirements to be listed. Ant subsequently pulls the Hong Kong listing.

Where it stands: China-watchers say skepticism from China's regulators about Ant is less at play here than are politics around founder Ma's sharp critical statements on financial regulation in the country made during a late October speech.

  • What they're saying: "To do this so late and this dramatically, it had to be a political decision," the Center for Strategic & International Studies' Jim Lewis tells Axios.

The big picture: The listing was set to lure investors from all around the globe. Small investors submitted an eye-popping $2.8 trillion worth of orders for the stock.

  • It would have been the most high-profile company to list on the Shanghai Stock Exchange Science and Technology Innovation Board, a bourse launched last year at the request of Xi in an attempt to compete with the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite.

The public market reaction: Shares of Alibaba, which owns one-third of Ant, were hit hard by the news, with the stock closing down more than 8%.

  • Alibaba's stock price hit all-time highs in recent weeks in anticipation of the Ant IPO.

Worth noting: China-based online lender and web investment company Lufax — which was met with a volatile market debut when it started trading in the U.S. last week — said in a statement it didn't expect China's new regulations to have an impact on its business.

  • Lufax shares fell 10%.

What to watch: Alibaba reports earnings on Thursday. Ant's scrapped IPO is expected
to come up in the company's call with analysts that morning.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Dec 1, 2020 - World

Australia-China tensions ratchet up over doctored Afghanistan photo

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Kiyoshi Ota/AFP via Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanded an apology and said China’s government should be "utterly ashamed" after a senior official tweeted a doctored image showing an Australian soldier killing an Afghan child.

Background: The tweet referred to a recent inspector general's report about war crimes allegedly committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. But the hawkish messages from China toward Australia didn’t start there.

4 hours ago - Science

The "war on nature"

A resident stands on his roof as the Blue Ridge Fire burned back in October in Chino Hills, Calif. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

Apocalyptic weather is the new normal because humans are "waging war on nature," the UN declared on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "The state of the planet is broken," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, reports AP. “This is suicidal.”

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Nursing homes are still getting pummeledU.S. could hit herd immunity by end of summer 2021 if Americans embrace virus vaccines, Fauci says.
  2. Politics: Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to adopt bipartisan $900B stimulus framework.
  3. World: U.K. clears Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for mass rollout — Putin says Russia will begin large-scale vaccination next week.
  4. Business: Investors are finally starting to take their money out of safe-haven Treasuries.
  5. Sports: The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight.