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China's Ant Group CEO Resigns In A Shake Up After Suspended IPO And Regulatory Heat

China's Ant Group CEO Resigns In A Shake Up After Suspended IPO And Regulatory Heat
While the company is under pressure from Chinese authorities as a regulatory driven overhaul of the business of the company is underway, the Chief Executive Officer of the Chinese technology giant Ant Group - Simon Hu, tendered his resignation unexpectedly.  This is first high profile exit of a top executive of the company after its suspended $37 billion initial public offering that was blocked under regulatory pressure.
The Ant Group said in a statement that company veteran and Executive Chairman Eric Jing will replace Hu who was appointed as the chief executive of the Alibaba Group Holding affiliate in 2019.
This resignation of Hu happened at a time when the company is trying to implement its plans of shifting to a financial holding company structure after it faced intense pressure from Chinese regulators to follow rules and capital requirements that are followed by the banking industry in the country.
Ant was forced to suddenly suspend its IPO last year which was touted to be the largest ever listing of the world.
Ant said in a statement that Hu had resigned because of personal reasons – but did not elaborate any further.
"Following the board's thorough discussions, we have decided to respect Simon's personal request and support him fully in his new mission," Jing said in an internal memo, according to media reports which claimed to have seen the document.
He said in the memo that Jing will continue in his current role as chairman.
This resulted in a drop of 3.9 per cent in the shares in billionaire Jack Ma's Alibaba which is listed in the United States.
Since Ant was forced to scuttle its IPO, the resignation of Hu is the first major management change in the company. Hu was among the most important executives of the company in-charge of management of the mega dual listing of the company in exchanges in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
After his speech on October 24 last year in which he severely criticised the regulatory system of China, the business empire of Jack Ma has come at the centre of a regulatory crackdown. Close scrutiny of the country's technology sector has since been imposed by regulators and much of that attention has been accorded to Alibaba. In December, an official anti-trust probe into Alibaba was launched by the regulator.
Soon after the regulatory attention, Jack Ma who is generally not very active in the public domain was reported to be missing from the public eye for three months. That had raised speculations about his whereabouts. He however re-emerged in January in a 50-second video appearance.
In its previous fundraising rounds, Ant was primarily valued as a technology firm and it is expected that Ant's financial holding structure is will have a negative impact on its overall valuation. Typically, valuations are much higher on technology firms than on financial companies.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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