Billionaire Jack Ma ceding control of Ant Group, IPO looms

SHANGHAI, 7 Jan 2023:

Chinese fintech giant Ant Group today announced its founder Jack Ma will cede control of the company, following an adjustment in its shareholding structure.

The group, which is an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, said that adjustment will render it more “transparent and diversified” and facilitate the “steady development” of the company.

With this step, deemed necessary in order to make its long-awaited initial public offering (IPO), Ant Group grants 10 people – including the founder, management and employees – independent voting rights.

“Upon completion of the adjustment, major shareholders of Ant Group, including Hangzhou Junhan and Hangzhou Junao, will independently exercise their voting rights in Ant Group,” the company said.

“No shareholder will, alone or jointly with another shareholder, have the power to control the outcome of Ant Group’s general meetings. No shareholder will have the power to nominate the majority of Ant Group’s board of directors. Therefore, no shareholder, alone or jointly with other parties, will have control over Ant Group.”

Ant Group is the owner and operator of Alipay, which is one the most popular digital payment platforms in China.

Its long-awaited IPO in Hong Kong in 2020, which would have been the largest of its kind in history, was suspended at the last moment by the Chinese authorities – who decided to step up their regulatory scrutiny over the tech sector for alleged monopolistic practices and threats to national security.

Beijing’s move came shortly after Ma publicly criticised China’s bureaucracy. Since then, the billionaire has chosen to keep a low profile and avoid appearing in public.

Under pressure from regulators, Ant Group is in the process of distancing itself from Alibaba and reorganising itself as an investment company that controls a series of subsidiaries in charge of different parts of its business.