Chinese regulators have ordered Ant Group, the mobile payments company run by billionaire Jack Ma, to overhaul major aspects of its business — a move that follows a scuttled IPO and comes just days after regulators announced an investigation of affiliate Alibaba.
Regulators announced Sunday that it had found major problems in Ant Group’s business practices in China.
The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange and the People’s Bank of China met Saturday to discuss perceived problems at Ant Group.
The People’s Bank of China, the nation’s central bank, said Ant Group is involved in anti-competitive activities and flouts regulatory standards. Similar charges were leveled at e-commerce giant Alibaba last week.
Pan Gongsheng, the bank’s deputy governor, also accused Ant Group of “having little legal knowledge and turning a blind eye to compliance requirements,” according to Financial Times.
The sudden scrutiny of Ma, one of China’s richest entrepreneurs, comes after he spoke at a finance conference in Shanghai in October, where he publicly criticized Chinese banks as “pawnshops” for handing out unnecessary loans.
Ma’s Ant Group runs the largest mobile payments system, Alipay, in China. Over the years, it has expanded to offer investment and savings accounts and credit score information. Those investment and other wealth management services are illegal, regulators said Sunday.
Alipay was ordered to return to its original business as a payment services provider, to make changes to those illegal finance management services, improve corporate governance and overhaul its credit rating services.
Despite a long list of demands to improve Ant Group to the government’s standards, officials stopped short of calling for a dissolution of the company.
Regulators for the Shanghai Stock Exchange scuttled plans for an initial public stock offering for Ant Group, citing “major issues.” The Chinese financial company was set to mark the world’s largest initial public offering, which was expected to raise an estimated $37 billion and boost Ant’s market value to more than $300 billion.