Billionaire Jack Ma Plans to Relinquish Control of China’s Ant Group – WSJ

Billionaire Jack Ma Plans to Relinquish Control of China’s Ant Group – WSJ

Alibaba Group co-founder and executive chairman Jack Ma attends the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China, September 17, 2018. Picture taken September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo/File Image

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BEIJING/HONG KONG, July 28 (Reuters) – Chinese billionaire Jack Ma plans to relinquish control of financial technology company Ant Group Co in a bid to break away from affiliate Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Ant and Alibaba did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Shares in US-listed e-commerce giant Alibaba fell 0.6% to $102.20 in premarket trading after jumping higher.

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While Ma only owns a 10% stake in Ant, he exercises control over the company through related entities, according to Ant’s IPO prospectus. The Journal said he could relinquish control by transferring some of his voting power to Ant officials, including CEO Eric Jing, citing unnamed sources.

In April last year, Reuters reported that Ant Group was exploring options for Ma to sell its stake in the financial technology giant and relinquish control.

Ma has restructured his sprawling e-commerce and fintech empire in the wake of a sweeping deregulation of the industry that began in late 2020 when Chinese regulators derailed Ant’s planned $37 billion IPO, which would have been the world’s largest.

Once outspoken, Ma has kept an extremely low public profile since then, as regulators reined in the country’s tech giants after years of a laissez-faire approach that fueled rampant growth.

The Wall Street Journal report said Ant had informed officials of Ma’s intention as the firm prepares to become a financial holding company, regulated by China’s central bank.

A change in control at Ant could slow plans to revive its long-awaited IPO, the Journal reported, as China’s domestic A-share market requires companies to wait three years after a change in control to list. The waiting period is two years in Shanghai’s STAR market, and one year in Hong Kong.

Earlier this week, Alibaba’s annual report revealed that Ant executives are no longer part of the Alibaba Partnership, a body that can nominate the majority of the e-commerce giant’s board, which the pair disengaged after the Beijing crackdown. read more

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Reporting by Akash Sriram in Bengaluru; Written by Tony Munroe; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Elaine Hardcastle

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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