Ant Group publishes rules of financial self-discipline amidst stricter Chinese scrutiny

File photo: The Ant Group brand was seen during the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province, China, November 23, 2020. Reuters / Ali Song / File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Ant Group on Friday announced a raft of fiscal discipline rules amid intense scrutiny of its activities by authorities and a sweeping tightening of the nation’s fintech regulations.

The rules, the first of their kind the financial technology giant has released publicly, come nearly four months after China suspended the group’s $ 37 billion plan to list shares in both Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Chinese regulators have tightened their grip on fintech companies, amid concerns about the systemic financial risks brought by the financial empire of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

In response to severe regulatory pressure, the group has been curbing some of its operations, taking steps to bring capital requirements in line with those of banks, and renewing itself as a financial holding company.

In a statement, Ant said its consumer loan platforms should not issue loans to minors, and should prevent small business loans from flowing into the equity and real estate markets.

It said the group’s Zhima Credit credit rating service would also not be available to financial institutions including microlenders, without explaining the specific risks of such cooperation.

As a reflection of regulators’ hawkish stance on financial risks, Guo Shucheng, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, warned last week that bubble risk was a key issue facing China’s real estate sector.

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On restructuring Ant’s business, Guo said there are no restrictions on the financial business that she develops, but all her financial activities should be regulated in accordance with laws.

Earlier, Ant lowered borrowing limits for some young users of Huabei virtual card product. The reduction in the credit line aims to promote more “rational” spending habits among users, she said.

Reported by Cheng Ling, Wingshe Yang and Ryan Wu; Edited by Christopher Cushing and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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