Shares of Chinese tech company Alibaba fell sharply after reports said regulators wanted to dismantle Alipay, the payments app with more than one billion users belonging to Jack Ma’s Ant group.
Beijing is looking to create a separate app for the company’s highly profitable lending activities, as state authorities’ latest crackdown on China’s tech sector.
Chinese regulators are said to be concerned about rising financial risks in the economy; Alipay’s lending business helped issue about 10% of the nation’s non-mortgage consumer loans last year.
Regulators have already ordered Ant Group to separate the back-end of its two lending businesses, Huabei and Jiebei, from the rest of its financial offerings.
Beijing wants the two companies to be split into a separate independent app, while also forcing Ant to share user data with a new credit scoring joint venture that is partly state-owned, according to the Financial Times. State-owned enterprises in the home province of Ant, including the Zhejiang Tourism Investment Group, reportedly hold a majority stake in the new joint venture.
The news caused Alibaba shares to fall 6% in trading on Monday, as the larger Hang Seng Tech index, which tracks China’s biggest tech groups listed in Hong Kong, fell more than 3% in because of investor concerns about the latest crackdown.
The business empire of Jack Ma, co-founder of Ant Group and Alibaba, has become a lightning rod in the crackdown on big tech by Chinese regulators.
In April, Alibaba paid a record fine of $ 2.8 billion (£ 2 billion) to settle an investigation by Chinese regulators into the company’s anti-competitive practices.
Authorities have started to focus on businesses owned by Ma, one of China’s most popular, outspoken and wealthy entrepreneurs, after he gave a blunt speech criticizing domestic regulators last year. , which would have infuriated President Xi Jinping.
After the comments, Chinese regulators blocked Ant Group’s $ 34 billion IPO in what would have been the largest stock offering in history.
In March, Beijing ordered Alibaba to sell some of its media assets, including Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.