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Jack Ma loses nearly $11 billion as China tightens scrutiny on his business empire

Jack Ma loses nearly $11 billion as China tightens scrutiny on his business empire
China’s regulatory crackdown on Jack Ma’s businesses, including e-commerce giant Alibaba and online payments platform Ant Group, has wiped around $11 billion from his fortune in just two months.

Jack Ma’s net worth tumbled to $50.9 billion against a peak of $61.7 billion seen earlier this year, according to the Bloomberg billionaires index. The recent losses knocked him into 25th spot on the list of the world’s 500 richest people and he is now fourth among China’s billionaires. The 56-year-old businessman now lags behind Nongfu Spring founder Zhong Shanshan, the founder of online marketplace Pinduoduo, Colin Huang, as well as Tencent’s Pony Ma. 

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The tech mogul’s troubles began as the massive listing of the fintech company he co-founded, Ant Group, was abruptly suspended in November. The failed dual-listing in both Shanghai and Hong Kong, which was meant to make history as the world’s largest IPO, sent shares of Alibaba plunging. Alibaba, which was also founded by Ma, owns roughly a 33 percent stake in Ant Group.

Both companies have faced tougher scrutiny since the sudden IPO suspension. Last week, China’s antitrust regulator opened an investigation into Alibaba over suspected monopoly practices that forced merchants selling their goods on Alibaba to avoid rival platforms. The company’s stock tumbled again following the news, but has managed to reverse some losses since then. It was trading six percent higher in Hong Kong on Wednesday. 

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Ant Group, which runs Alipay, the largest mobile payments system in China, was simultaneously summoned by China’s central bank and other regulatory agencies. After the meeting that took place on Saturday, the central bank signaled that it wants the platform to overhaul some of its operations as it ordered the company to “return to its origins” as a payment services provider. It also said that the group must improve corporate governance and “strictly rectify illegal credit, insurance and wealth management financial activities.” The firm has already vowed to “fully implement” the regulator’s requirements.

Despite Beijing’s attempts to tighten control on the fintech industry and the coronavirus crisis, the country's tech billionaires still won big this year. Even given the latest drop, Ma’s fortune got $4.3 billion bigger in 2020, while the net worth of China’s 21 tech billionaires included in the Bloomberg index jumped by $187 billion.

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