Billionaire Jack Ma ceases control over Ant Group, ending a difficult period for the Chinese fintech giant
Alibaba Group’s founder, Jack Ma, saw its stake in affiliate fintech champion Ant reduced on Saturday to 6% from 50%-plus. As an immediate reaction, on Monday morning, shares in the e-commerce giant rose 7% in Hong Kong.
According to Reuters, this may mark the end of Ant’s campaign to placate regulators after they derailed the group’s $37 billion initial public offering in late 2020.
Also on Saturday a fifth independent director was announced to be joining Ant’s board, adding to the assumption that Beijing may be easing up on technology champions.
Alibaba owns a third of Ant, and has lost two-thirds of its market capitalization since a 2020 peak, erasing more than half a trillion dollars of value.
As per Refinitiv, the stock currently trades at just 12 times forward earnings, well below its five-year average of 21 times, just in line with other mainland tech companies.
Ma’s dismissal coincides with a broader relaxation on the Chinese internet industry and easing Covid-19 restrictions that should eventually trickle into earnings.
According to averaged analyst forecasts on Refinitiv, Alibaba’s revenue is to rise just 3% in the current fiscal year, while Ant’s restructuring will bring it closer to becoming a financial holding company.
Ma has reportedly been hiding out in Tokyo with his family during Beijing’s crackdown on the country’s star tech firms and its most powerful and wealthy business people.
Ma has rarely been seen in public since criticizing the attitude of Chinese regulators towards tech companies at a summit in Shanghai two years ago.
As a consequence, Chinese regulators moved to block the $34bn stock market flotation of the Alibaba online payments subsidiary Ant Group, which would have been the biggest share offering in history.