Chinese State Firms to Check Ant Investments

The new round of checks into the Alibaba affiliate reignited concerns about the crackdown on Jack Ma's business empire and China's tech industry at large.
Feb. 22, 2022 20:35
Chinese State Firms to Check Ant Investments
(CapitalWatch, Feb. 22, New York) Regulators have asked China's state-owned firms to run another round of checks into their investments in Ant Group, signaling that Beijing won't be lessening its scrutiny on the Alibaba (NYSE: BABA; HKEX: 9988) affiliate in 2022.

Anonymous sources told Reuters that the request came in last week, and it's not clear if the firms have a deadline to submit the information or what action could be taken moving forward. This request is just the latest move in an ongoing crackdown on Ant that led to the pulling of the company's $37 billion IPO and its complete restructuring.

Amid the restructuring, Banking company China Cinda Asset Management Co Ltd. (HKEX: 1359) canceled a $944 million investment in Ant's consumer finance unit in January under regulatory pressure. Cinda didn't provide details on why the company would not go through with obtaining a 20% stake in Ant, but sources told Reuters that authorities didn't approve the deal since the fintech firm was still in the middle of restructuring its core business. The deal would have boosted Ant's registered capital to $4.73 billion and paved the way for new strategic investors.

China also continues to implement new regulations for the broader technology sector in efforts to reign in tech titans like Tencent (OTC: TCEHY; HKEX: 0700), Alibaba, and ride-hailing app Didi (NYSE: DIDI). Since the nixing of Ant's IPO in 2020, Beijing has taken sweeping actions to strengthen previously weak antitrust laws, set more clear and strict rules for data privacy protection, and levied millions upon billions in fines against the companies who violate the laws.

Since news broke of the request, investors' concerns about the ongoing crackdown reignited and triggered a China tech sector sell-off Tuesday. Alibaba shares dropped to their lowest since late January and, as of Tuesday afternoon, were down nearly 6%, trading at $112.40.