Founder of Ant Group, Jack Ma, will give up control of the Chinese fintech giant after it was confirmed by the group’s executives following a reshuffle of its shareholder structure.
The Chinese billionaire founded Ant Group in 2014 after founding its parent company, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group in 1999, establishing the fintech firm as one of the most successful in its sector, most notably developing Alipay, China’s most popular digital payment processor.
Ma, who previously held a 50% stake in Ant, will now control just over 6% of the company after the company reshuffle.
The Ant Founder has been embroiled in a war of words with the Chinese government over proposals to change the country’s financial sector, dating back to November 2020 when Ant was initially about to embark on a $37bn stock market flotation.
Chinese government officials took issue with this stock market flotation citing “major issues” within the regulations regarding the fintech firm, as the IPO would have made Ant the most valuable fintech in the world.
Ma criticised the country’s financial regulatory system as an “old people’s club” which the government did not take kindly to, halting the potentially historic IPO via a new regulatory rule.
As the Chinese government launched an anti-monopoly investigation into Ant and Alibaba, many insiders and experts close to the story, one being Bill Bishop, author of Sinocism, believes that the government’s actions against Ma were a sharp warning to private firms.
Bishop wrote: “The party has once again reminded all private entrepreneurs that no matter how rich and successful you are it can pull the rug out from under your feet at any time.”
This led to Ma, who has continuously been one of the wealthiest people in China, to disappear for up to three months and despite being spotted after this time period, he has reportedly kept a low-profile after the debacle with the government.
Now no longer within full control over Ant, Chinese economy expert Andrew Collier believes this move from the fintech shows the “determination of the Chinese leadership to reduce the influence of large private investors”.