Chinese billionaire Jack Ma to cede control of fintech giant Ant Group in move to end long period of regulatory limbo
Ant Group founder Jack Ma is to relinquish control over the organisation as part of a restructuring process that began in 2020, the company said over the weekend.
The firm has been in limbo since late 2020, when the Chinese government forced it to abandon a planned IPO at the last minute.
Following the cancelled £26 billion IPO, which would have made Ma the richest man in China, Ma disappeared for three months and has since rarely been seen in public.
Last year he reportedly spent several months in Japan and more recently has arrived in Thailand where he is studying farming and fishery, according to reports from Chinese media.
Ant Group’s Alipay, China’s main digital payment system, has eclipsed cash and credit cards.
Ma currently controls more than 50 percent of the company’s voting rights, but this will be reduced to just over 6 percent, according to an Ant Group statement.
Following the move Ant Group will have no single person in ultimate control, the company said.
In 2020 Ma made a speech criticising the country’s regulators and state-owned banks, triggering a crackdown not only on Ant Group but also the broader tech sector, extending into areas such as online video gaming and cryptocurrency mining.
Reuters reported that Chinese regulators are preparing to impose a fine of more than $1bn (£830m) on the company, signalling the end of its restructuring process.
This follows a separate penalty of a record $2.8bn on sister company Alibaba in April 2021.
The government has more recently softened its tone toward China’s tech sector, giving indications it wants to support economic growth.