Religion and business often make strange bedfellows.
China bars Buddhist site operator from an IPO
But the proposed initial public offering of a Buddhist site operator has proved too unseemly for China’s stock regulators.
Putuoshan Tourism Development, which provides travel services on and around one of the four most revered Buddhist mountains in the country, Mount Putou, was ordered by China’s securities regulator to withdraw its application for listing.
The block was a win for China’s Buddhist community, which has criticized the plan as commercialization of its faith, as the country undergoes a boom in domestic tourism amid an expanding middle class.
“Profiting from religious faith not only betrays the religion's fundamental spirits, but also breaches the bottom line of society’s basic values,” the Buddhist Association of China said in a a statement on April 11.
“Let faith be faith,” it said.
In blocking the IPO, the China Securities Regulatory Commission said on Wednesday it would scrutinize the tourism operator according to a 2017 notice on preventing the commercialization of Buddhism and Taoism.
The notice, issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, suggested tougher regulation on business activities involving Buddhism and Taoism to prevent damage to their tranquil and solemn image.
But the apparent effort to protect Buddhist symbols from monetization came only after the eponymous tourism operators of two of the other four holy Buddhist mountains, Emei and Jiuhua, had successfully gone public in 1997 and 2015, respectively.
Mount Putou, or Putuoshan (“shan” means mountain), is an island in the eastern province of Zhejiang, where millions of people, devout or not, visit each year to worship Guanyin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy.
According to a prospectus filed in June last year, Putuoshan Tourism Development had wanted to raise $97 million (615 million yuan) through a public listing to finance expansion, including the construction of a car park and spa facilities.