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    Chinese regulators approve capital expansion for Ant Group

    HONG KONG (AP) – Chinese regulators have said e-commerce giant Alibaba’s finance affiliate Ant Group can raise USD1.5 billion for its consumer finance unit in an important step forward after the government called off a planned IPO two years ago and ordered the firm to restructure.

    The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) in the southwestern city of Chongqing said in a notice dated December 30 that Ant’s consumer credit unit had gained approval to increase its capital to CNY18.5 billion from CNY8 billion.

    The approval came weeks after Beijing signalled at an economic work conference that it would support technology firms to boost economic growth and create more jobs.

    Under the latest capital expansion plan, Ant would contribute CNY9.25 billion for a 50-per-cent stake of its Chongqing consumer credit unit, while a separate company controlled by the government in the eastern city of Hangzhou, where Alibaba has its headquarters, would hold 10 per cent.

    The approval comes more than a year after an earlier plan to raise CNY22 billion fell through when China Cinda Asset Management – a state-owned bad loans manager – pulled out of an agreement to acquire a 20-per-cent stake in Ant’s consumer finance arm.

    Visitors past by the booth for Ant Group at the China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing. PHOTO: AP

    Ant is restructuring after Chinese regulators pulled the plug on its mega-IPO just days before its market debut in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

    They then tightened regulations on the financial technology industry, ordering companies like Ant to operate more like banks and follow capital requirements.

    This meant Ant had to clean up violations in some of its businesses, such as credit, insurance and wealth management.

    The company is awaiting approval of licences to operate as a financial holding company and as a personal credit ratings firm.

    Alibaba shares in Hong Kong jumped over seven per cent yesterday. The company’s New York-listed shares have fallen more than 23 per cent in the past year.

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