Jack Ma’s Ant Group Gets Regulatory Nod For $1.5 Billion Capital Increase Plan

Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant Group won regulatory approval to boost the registered capital of its consumer finance unit by 10.5 billion yuan ($1.5 billion), a move suggesting progress in the fintech giant’s efforts to restructure its operations to satisfy authorities’ demands.

Chongqing Ant Consumer Finance, which was established in 2021 to host Ant’s consumer-lending businesses, such as Huabei and Jiebei, got the greenlight to increase its capital to about $2.7 billion on December 29, according to a post published by the Chongqing unit of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission. This will allow Ant to handle more consumer-oriented loans and it eliminates another regulatory obstacle en route to completing its initial public offering that was abruptly shelved in 2020. Ant was told at the time that it had to revamp its various business lines, including boosting its capital adequacy ratio to keep risks in check.

Now, under the approved plan, Ant Group would contribute $1.3 billion and own half of the Chongqing unit after completion of the deal. A unit owned by the municipal government of Hangzhou would become the second-largest shareholder with a 10% stake, after contributing $270 million.

Other investors participating in the fundraising round include billionaire Wu Guangming’s Shanghai-based medical equipment company Jiangsu Yuwell, billionaire Robin Zeng’s battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology and the state-run China Huarong Asset Management, according to the government’s post.

The capital increase, however, marks a scaled-down version of a previous plan, which would have seen Ant raise $3.5 billion for the Chongqing unit, with more than a quarter of the funding coming from state-run China Cinda Asset Management. Cinda later walked away from the deal, citing “further prudent commercial consideration and negotiation.”

The Ant Group, in the meantime, is yet to be awarded licenses to become a financial holding company, which will see it being regulated more like a bank. Ma, who was ranked No. 5 on the list of China’s 100 richest people in November, with a net worth of $20.6 billion, is also expected to gradually cede control of the fintech giant he cofounded almost 20 years ago. The former high-flying tycoon no longer holds an executive role at the company nor does he sit on its board.

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