Billionaire Jack Ma is giving up control of Ant Group Billionaire Jack Ma is giving up control of Ant Group
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Billionaire Jack Ma is giving up control of Ant Group

Billionaire Jack Ma is giving up control of Ant Group

The company is offering 10 individuals, including the founder, management, and staff, voting rights independently, effectively removing Ma’s control of Ant Group

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Jack Ma

Jack Ma is giving up controlling rights of Ant Group Co, as the billionaire further retreats from his online empire following the country’s unprecedented tech crackdown.

The company is offering 10 individuals, including the founder, management, and staff, voting rights independently, effectively removing Ma’s control of Ant, according to an announcement on Saturday. The adjustment will not change economic interests of any shareholders.

Ma has mostly disappeared from public view since giving a speech that criticised regulators on the eve of the scuttled Ant listing in 2020. Many of his peers have relinquished their formal corporate roles and increased donations to charity to align with President Xi Jinping’s vision of achieving “common prosperity.”

Ant has since focused on overhauling its business operations to appease regulators. It’s ramping up its capital base for its consumer loan affiliate, moved to build firewalls in an ecosystem that once allowed it to direct traffic from payment platform Alipay, with a billion users, to services like wealth management and consumer lending.

The change of control could mean that Ant will have to wait longer for a much-anticipated resumption of its initial public offering. Companies can’t list domestically on the country’s so-called A-share market if they have had a controller change in the past three years — or in the past two years if listing on Shanghai’s STAR market. For Hong Kong’s stock exchange, this waiting period is one year.

Ma’s fintech giant was poised to conduct the world’s biggest listing in 2020, challenging the nation’s biggest state lenders, before it was scuttled as regulators launched a crackdown on the industry.

Ma will still hold voting rights and economic interests in the company following the change. In a filing in July, affiliate Alibaba Group Holding reiterated that Ma “intends to reduce and thereafter limit his direct and indirect economic interest in Ant Group over time” to a percentage that doesn’t exceed 8.8 per cent.

Ma will have about 6.2 per cent of the voting rights after the adjustment, based on Bloomberg calculations.

Ant’s board will be made up of a majority of independent directors after the company introduces a fifth one, according to the statement.

Ant’s consumer lending affiliate recently received regulatory approval for a capital injection of CNY10.5bn ($1.5bn), signalling progress in its restructuring and removing a hurdle as it seeks to obtain a financial holding license. The company could issue about 400 billion yuan to CNY500bn in loans after the changes, based on Bloomberg calculations.

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