Moves to control fintech sector put Alibaba group company on uncertain path
HONG KONG — A weekend announcement from China’s central bank has raised questions about whether the authorities will go as far as seeking a breakup of Ant Group in a possible escalation of their crackdown on the Jack Ma-controlled online financial services conglomerate.
The People’s Bank of China said Sunday that it had directed the company to rectify regulatory breaches in its operations and to overhaul its credit rating business to protect personal information. The news helped drive shares of Alibaba Group Holding, which owns a third of Ant, down 8% in Hong Kong trading on Monday.
Investors and analysts see the move by the Chinese central bank as a way to rein in Ant — and as an answer to Ma for taking a swipe at financial regulators in a speech in October.
Ant began life as the digital-payments service Alipay in 2004, but over the years it has evolved from a tool for customers of Alibaba’s shopping platforms into a virtual financial services mall in its own right. It connects its 730 million monthly users with banks, insurers and wealth managers to secure loans, insurance policies and financial investment products.