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Jack Ma Out Of Spotlight As Chinese Regulators Pounce

The eCommerce billionaire Jack Ma has been in the eye of the storm as China’s regulators have flexed their muscles and taken on FinTech companies. However, Alibaba Group Founder Ma has retreated from the public eye.

The high-profile business owner was last seen at an October event in Shanghai, where he denounced China’s regulatory system, Reuters reported on Monday (Jan. 4). The next month, Chinese regulators debuted a set of proposed regulations that derailed Ma’s plans to have his Ant Group hold an initial public offering. The IPO had been ready to raise an estimated $37 billion, with the stock set for listings by the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges in China.

On top of Ant’s woes, Chinese regulators have started an antitrust probe into Alibaba.

Ma owns about a one-third stake and the controlling interest in Ant Group, a spinoff of his first company, Alibaba. Now, Ant faces an uphill slog through new regulatory hurdles.

Ant Group’s latest plan would put its online financial businesses into a holding company. Such a move might satisfy regulators, but it could also slash the company’s valuation. In addition, it could require Ant to put billions of dollars in reserves and force it to retain big shares of loans it currently sells off in the form of bonds.

“Its growth would slow a lot,” said Francis Chan, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst.

Reuters reported that Ma was recently replaced as a judge in the final episode of a game show for entrepreneurs called “Africa’s Business Heroes.”

“I think he’s been told to lay low,” said Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based tech consultancy BDA China. “This is a pretty unique situation, more linked to the sheer scale of Ant and the sensitivities over financial regulation,” he told Reuters.

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