Ant Group’s Consumer Lending Unit Set to Start Operations
Ant Group Co.’s consumer finance unit was cleared Thursday to start operations, nine months after the fintech affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. obtained regulatory approval last September to set up the unit.
The opening was delayed by Ant’s stranded record initial public offering in November, followed by a government-ordered overhaul to transform its business into a financial holding company that will be regulated more like a bank.
Chongqing Ant Consumer Finance Co. Ltd. can lend to individuals, accept deposits from domestic shareholders and their subsidiaries, issue bonds, borrow from domestic financial institutions, sell insurance products related to consumer finance, invest in fixed-income securities and provide consumer finance consulting services, according to a notice posted on the website of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC).
The new company will take over consumer financing businesses from Huabei and Jiebei, Ant’s biggest money-earners. They are currently run by two microlending units registered in Chongqing city and regulated by the local government, an official from the CBIRC told Caixin.
Within a one-year transition period after the new consumer finance unit starts operation, the two Chongqing microlending companies are to carry out a “smooth and orderly” exit from the market, the official said.
Through Huabei and Jiebei, Ant issued 1.7 trillion yuan ($266 billion) of micro consumer loans to 500 million people as of last June.
Under Ant’s overhaul plan, the group is to complete the brand reorganization work of Huabei and Jiebei within six months after the new unit starts operation. The two brands can be used only for consumer loans offered by Chongqing Ant, and loans provided by other financial institutions using Ant’s data will no longer be allowed to use the Huabei and Jiebei names.
The CBIRC also ordered Ant to ensure that consumers are fully aware of loan providers’ names and avoid brand confusion.
The approval notice showed that Chongqing Ant’s original shareholding structure has not changed. Ant Group holds 50% of the company, while Nanyang Commercial Bank Ltd. is the second-largest shareholder with 15%. Other shareholders include Taiwan-based bank Cathay United Bank, battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., intelligent transportation system provider China TransInfo Technology Corp., China Huarong Asset Management Co., and medical device company Jiangsu Yuyue Medical Equipment & Supply Co. Ltd.
Huang Hao, president of Ant’s digital finance business group, will act as Chongqing Ant’s chairman. Chen Huaisheng, currently product chief of Jiebei, will be the general manager of the new unit.
Contact reporter Denise Jia (firstname.lastname@example.org) and editor Bob Simison (email@example.com)
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