China forces Jack Ma’s Ant Group to restructure

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Jack Ma speaking at a conference

Jack Ma speaking at a conference

China has forced a sweeping restructure on the Ant Group so the financial technology firm acts more like a bank.

Ant Group’s mega $37bn (£27bn) share market launch was derailed by regulators in November over concerns about its finance model.

The latest move is part of a wider crackdown by China to reign in the country’s fast-growing tech platforms.

Ant’s affiliate company Alibaba was hit with a record fine of $2.8bn on Friday over monopoly concerns.

The overhaul, directed by the People’s Bank of China, subjects Ant to tougher regulatory oversight and minimum capital requirements.

Ant Group is China’s biggest payments provider, with more than 730 million monthly users on its digital payments service Alipay.

China’s central bank said that under a “comprehensive and feasible restructuring plan,” Ant would also cut the “improper” linkage between Alipay, and its credit card and consumer loan services.

Its trove of consumer data was widely seen as one of the company’s key advantages over its competitors.

Ant has also agreed to set up a personal credit reporting company, which will strengthen the protection of personal information and effectively prevent the abuse of data.

Jack Ma under pressure

The move is the latest in a chain of regulatory moves targeting the business empire of Jack Ma, who was a co-founder of both Ant Group and Alibaba.

Regulators began to show increasing interest in Ant Group in October, after Mr Ma criticised regulators, suggesting they were stifling innovation.

Shortly after the speech, Chinese regulators scuppered the share market launch of Ant Group, which is Alibaba’s sister company and China’s biggest electronic payments provider.

China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) also began looking into Mr Ma’s e-commerce platform Alibaba, which is China’s largest.

After Friday’s $2.8bn fine was announced, Alibaba’s share price rocketed more than 8% as investors believed this signalled the end of the investigations.

However, Chinese regulators appear poised to take a harder line on tech businesses, after taking a laissez-faire attitude towards the country’s tech giants as the industry grew.

Last month, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) said it had fined 12 companies over 10 deals that violated anti-monopoly rules.

The companies included Tencent, Baidu and Didi Chuxing – which are among China’s largest tech companies.

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