Commentary on Political Economy

Monday, 22 June 2020


Jack Ma’s Fintech Giant Ant to Drop ‘Financial’ From Its Name

The Alibaba affiliate wins Chinese regulator’s approval to change its name to Ant Technology Group Co.x a

Ant is looking to broaden its horizons.

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China’s largest financial-technology company is rebranding itself to emphasize the tech rather than the finance, after earlier drawing scrutiny from regulators.
Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., said it received approval from China’s top business and commerce regulator to change its name to Ant Technology Group Co. in its business-registration records.
The company’s legal name in Chinese is currently Zhejiang Ant Small and Micro Financial Services Group Co. Ltd.  The change will take effect after its records with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce are updated.
A spokesman said the company wants to be referred to in English as “Ant Group Co.,” better reflecting its role as “an innovative global technology provider” to businesses, including financial institutions. “More than 60% of Ant employees are in technology-related jobs, he added.
Created in 2014 after billionaire Jack Ma carved out Alibaba’s Alipay payments network and assembled a suite of financial services around it, Ant gained a $150 billion valuation—making it one of the world’s most valuable startups—when it raised $14 billion from private investors in June 2018.
Alipay is now one of China’s two largest mobile-payment networks, with more than 900 million active users. Ant also operates one of the country’s largest investment platforms for money-market funds, sells other financial products, lends to individuals and small businesses and operates credit-scoring business.
Ant also collects fees from financial institutions that sell products on its platform, or use its technology to power their own websites. The company previously told investors that it expects more than half of its revenue to come from technology services in 2020, up from 35% in 2017. Its financial results aren’t public.
China’s financial regulators in recent years have crimped Ant’s profits and growth ambitions. After a money-market fund managed by a unit of Ant became the world’s largest—drawing deposits from China’s banks—Ant’s asset-management business was pressed to reduce the fund’s size and make its portfolio less risky. Ant subsequently let other money managers sell similar funds on its platform. Its giant fund shrank considerably after its investment yields fell.
Chinese regulators have also mandated that Alipay and other third-party mobile networks keep the bulk of customer funds in accounts at commercial banks, and clear payment transactions through a government platform.
Ant has been trying to shed its financials-services image. Executives earlier said they prefer that Ant be called a “TechFin” company rather than a “fintech” one. In March, Alipay said it plans to build a “one-stop digital lifestyle platform” that connects 40 million service providers—from grocery delivery companies to hotels and transportation providers—with its users.

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