China's banking and insurance regulator said on Friday that the investigation into fintech giant Ant Group would not undermine the company's business development and was not a move against private firms, a reference to increased scrutiny of both Ant and its affiliate Alibaba Group Holding, the owner of the South China Morning Post.
Liang Tao, vice-president of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), said at a press conference that investigations by financial regulators into internet platform companies were not aimed at any specific company.
"These measures will not impact the development of their normal businesses," Liang said, adding that banks and insurance agencies are encouraged to continue their cooperation with internet platforms, including those ordered to correct their business practices. Liang also credited internet platforms with helping to advance fintech technologies and improve the efficiency and inclusiveness of financial services in China.
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The regulator's assurances came two days after Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, made his first public appearance in nearly three months. The entrepreneur, one of the wealthiest people in China, had not been seen since he gave a controversial speech at a Shanghai financial forum on October 24 that compared China's traditional banks to pawn shops.
Liang's words of reassurance are another attempt from regulators to alleviate widespread market concerns over the fate of Alibaba's business empire, ranging from e-commerce to financial services, in the world's second-largest economy. The company's share price took a tumble in December after an investigation was launched by the State Administration for Market Regulation. The stock surged 8.5 per cent in Hong Kong after Jack Ma reappeared this week.
Last month, People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, ran an editorial that downplayed the political significance of the antitrust investigation. "The strengthening of anti-monopoly supervision will not bring about a 'winter' in the industry, but rather a new starting point for better and healthier development," the article said.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Ant Group kicks off the overhaul of its fintech operations under the watchful eyes of China's central bank and financial regulators
- Ant Group fintech rival JD Digits restructures amid Beijing's Big Tech crackdown
- Alibaba antitrust probe presents new challenges for China's regulators 12 years after implementation of anti-monopoly law
- China fintech: banking and insurance watchdog CBIRC lays out ways it may punish risky consumer finance companies