Chinese government 'plans to split Ant's Alipay business'

Chinese regulators are reportedly considering a break up of Ant Group's Alipay operation.

According to a report in the Financial Times, regulators want to separate Ant Group's Alipay payments app function – which has over 1 billion users – from its lending operation.

A separate platform for the lending business would be created under the plan. And according to the FT, Ant would be forced to hand over user data that underpins its loans decisions to a new credit scoring firm, which would be partly state-owned.

Ant Group is the financial affiliate of the Alibaba e-commerce and cloud services giant.

After news broke of the reported move, the share price in Alibaba in Hong Kong fell further, continuing a trend as leading Chinese technology companies feel the heat as the government moves towards greater influence over their businesses.

Last year, regulators prevented a $37 billion share market launch of the Ant Group. And in April this year, Alibaba received a $2.8bn fine over monopoly concerns.

Outside of Alibaba, the fines levied against Chinese technology companies of late by the State Administration for Market Regulation have been small, but represent the current sentiment towards the tech sector in Beijing, said analyst Canalys.

“The Chinese government is putting pressure on both large established tech firms and smaller startups,” said Alex Smith, an analyst at Canalys. “Chinese tech companies could always rely on their local market, especially when access to lucrative Western markets was blocked.

“But increasing domestic regulatory pressures over the past nine months have been a frustrating headwind for those companies that have seen their cloud businesses grow significantly over the past few years,” said Smith.

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