Just when it seemed safe to poke out beyond the shell and buy some badly beaten down Chinese tech names, Chairman Xi had another surprise.
Today’s reason why tech names are tumbling again after staging a modest rebound on Friday is a report in the Financial Times, according to which China seeks to break up Ant Group’s financial giant, Alipay, and create a separate app for its loans business.
Citing two unidentified people familiar with the plan, regulators plan to split into an independent app the back end of its two lending businesses Huabei and Jiebei from the rest of its financial operations and bring in new shareholders. There is a plan to spin off Ant’s user data that underpins its lending decisions to a new credit scoring joint-venture which will be partly state-owned.
For the time being Jack Ma’s team would run the new venture, the FT says citing an unidentified a person close to the company. However, the implication is that eventually the state will take control.s
As a reminder, Ant already set up a new entity for consumer loan business which will include Huabei and Jiebei and started operations in June, but it appears that’s not enough for Beijing, whose regulators told Ant to go back to its origin of being a payments service provider and reform its lending business. Separately, WSJ reported in April that Ant was discussing with regulators the possibility of transferring some of its app-based financial services to another of its apps, called Ant Fortune, citing people familiar with the matter
In response to the latest crackdown, the Hang Seng Tech Index – which soared on Friday on speculation that Beijing was finally done destroying its tech conglomerates, plunged as much as 3% in Hong Kong.
The biggest decliners of the index are Trip.Com -5.8%, Zhongan online -5.5%; Alibaba fells as much as 4.5% after the report, while Tencent dropped as much as 3.6%. Meanwhile, Meituan dropped as much as 5.4% after Beijing tells platform companies to protect the working conditon of gig economy workers. Adding insult to injuryt, Fitch on Friday downgraded Meituan by a notch to BBB-, the lowest investment- grade rating, due to “the greater regulatory uncertainty” facing the company.
Finally, the 21st Century Business Herald reported that MIIT hosted a conference with tech giants including Alibaba, Tencent, Bytedance, Baidu, Huawei and Xiaomi on Thursday and ordered them to open their platforms to each other before deadline. According to the report, the government will step up regulation on websites blocking competitors’ content.