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Ant Group announces share buyback after crackdown

BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese fintech giant Ant Group announced on Saturday a share buyback plan to allow some investors to offload or reduce their stakes after the government slapped the firm with a USD1 billion fine for alleged “illegal acts”.

Ant operates Alipay, the world’s largest digital payments platform, which boasts hundreds of millions of monthly users in China and beyond.

It was one of the most prominent targets of a sweeping crackdown on the country’s tech sector that is now drawing to a close.

Ant said it aims to repurchase up to 7.6 per cent of its equity.

The share buyback plan values Ant Group at CNY567.1 billion (USD78.5 billion), less than a quarter of the company’s whopping USD315 billion valuation when it tried to list in Hong Kong in 2020.

Ant Group booth during the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai. PHOTO: AFP

“The repurchased shares will be transferred into Ant Group’s employee incentive plans to attract talents,” the company said.

“The repurchase proposal will also provide a liquidity option for the company’s investors.”

The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) on Friday slapped a USD984 million fine on Ant and its subsidiaries “in view of… illegal and irregular acts”. The penalty “included the confiscation of illegal income”, the regulator said.

“At present, most of the outstanding problems in the financial business of platform enterprises have been rectified,” it added.