Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is giving up controlling rights of Ant Group. 10 individuals, including the company's founder, management and staff, will now have independent voting rights. At the same time, the adjustment will not change economic interests of any shareholders, Bloomberg reported.
Jack Ma has mostly disappeared from public view since giving a speech that criticized Chinese regulators in 2020. After that, Ant's market listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai was derailed by the Chinese authorities. Later Alibaba was fined a record $2.8 billion because of antitrust violations.
The change of control could mean that Ant will have to wait longer for a much anticipated resumption of its initial public offering. Companies can’t list domestically on the country’s so-called A-share market if they have had a controller change in the past three years — or in the past two years, if listing on Shanghai’s STAR market. For Hong Kong’s stock exchange, this waiting period is one year.
Ma's ceding of control comes as Ant is nearing the completion of its two-year regulatory-driven restructuring, with Chinese authorities poised to impose a fine of more than $1 billion on the firm, Reuters reported in November.
Ma will still hold voting rights in the company following the change. Alibaba said last year that Ma intended to reduce and thereafter limit his direct and indirect economic interest in Ant Group over time” to a percentage that doesn’t exceed 8.8%. The Ant Group's board of directors will be made up of a majority of independent directors.