In an unexpected move that will be closely watched by regulators, Ant Group has surpassed Citadel Securities for Credit Suisse‘s investment bank venture in China.

China favours a foreign buyer, therefore the attempt by a fintech company backed by Jack Ma to build a securities company using Credit Suisse’s operations will be closely reviewed, according to Bloomberg.

The Swiss bank was initially granted the investment banking and brokerage license in order to help open up the financial sector to international competition.

Furthermore, the decision raises an obstacle for UBS Group AG, which has taken over Credit Suisse. The bank will have to choose between Ant’s larger local proposal and Citadel’s cheaper offer, which is more likely to receive government clearance. Negotiations are still continuing, and further bidders may join the bidding war.

UBS is trying to attract global corporations’ interest in the operation due to growing geopolitical tensions, a clampdown on bank data flows, and a faltering economy.

Moreover, the bank faces a delicate balancing act because the venture’s Chinese partner, Founder Securities, may reject Citadel’s lesser offer, delaying the transaction.

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Citadel Securities, established by billionaire Ken Griffin, was the only worldwide firm to bid in late December, offering between CNY1.5bn ($208bn) and CNY2bn ($277bn).

With the inclusion of Founder Securities’ share, Credit Suisse requested for almost CNY2bn for the whole China unit. The Swiss bank valued the company at approximately CNY2.3bn before it failed in March 2023. It had offered to pay its partner CNY1.14bn to buy out the remaining stake.

UBS is compelled to find a buyer for the Credit Suisse platform because it currently has a securities firm in China and cannot have two licenses in the same business. Following the closure of the wealth operation last year, the Credit Suisse unit in China now focuses primarily on investment banking and brokerage.

Furthermore, Ant’s bid comes after Chinese regulators completed a nearly three-year investigation into Ma’s fintech firm, slapping it with a CNY7.12bn fine in July.

The billionaire’s clash with Beijing has cost his business, which includes Ant and Alibaba Group, more than $800bn in lost valuation, while also delaying what would have been the world’s largest initial public offering.

Winning such approval would help the fintech firm fill a void, providing one of the final missing parts to its global footprint. The company’s operations range from online payments to wealth management and lending, which is why it is looking for a financial holding license to meet regulators’ needs for increased monitoring.

When contacted by PBI, a Credit Suisse spokesperson declined to comment.