Ant Group shelves share buyback programme for current and departing staff: Bloomberg

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Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co has shelved a share buyback programme for current and departing staff, partly because of uncertainty over how to value the company, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, citing executives familiar with the matter.

Ant suspended a share buyback program for current and departing staff in July to prepare for the IPO, people familiar with the decision said but has thus far struggled to revive it in part because of uncertainty over how to value the company.

The moves underscore two intertwined challenges facing Ant: The fintech giant’s future is still shrouded in doubt due to an ongoing lack of regulatory clarity, and the risk of employee discontent is rising. Ant is bracing for departures after it pays bonuses in April, people familiar said, asking not to be named discussing private information.

Few doubt that the company’s prospects have worsened dramatically since China began tightening regulations on the fintech sector, but the opacity surrounding the new rules have made it difficult to put a number on the damage. Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Francis Chan, for instance, has lowered his estimate for Ant’s valuation three times since the IPO was scuttled. He now pegs the company’s net worth at less than $108 billion, about 60% lower than the level implied by Ant’s listing plan in November.