Caixin
Sep 22, 2021 10:58 PM
FINANCE

Ant Group Lending Platform Huabei Resumes Sending Credit Data to PBOC

Ant Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhejiang province, in November 2020. Photo: VCG
Ant Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhejiang province, in November 2020. Photo: VCG

Ant Group Co. Ltd.’s consumer lending service Huabei has resumed submitting its users’ credit information to the central bank’s credit reporting system, a step toward complying with rules designed to bring the risk-prone online lending industry into the regulatory fold.

Launched in 2014, Huabei is a “buy-now-pay-later” service offered through Alipay, China’s leading payment platform. As of June 2020, Huabei and Jiebei, another one of Ant Group’s consumer lending services, had lent more than 2 trillion yuan ($309 billion) to millions of users, according to the prospectus for the fintech giant’s now-shipwrecked IPO. The two lending services are Ant’s biggest money-earners.

Huabei will report data including users’ credit limits, amount of credit used and their repayment records to the credit reporting system monthly, Huabei said in a social media post (link in Chinese) Wednesday, though it won’t report what its users are buying or when they are buying it.

Huabei also promised to obtain users’ authorization before reporting their information to the system, but it’s unclear whether users will be able to continue using the service if they decline.

Huabei started submitting credit data to the central bank system in early 2015, but suspended the practice in 2018 due to Ant Group’s internal adjustment to its ownership, sources with knowledge of the issue told Caixin.

Regulators have required 14 internet giants, including Ant Group, to overhaul their financial services by the end of 2021, and clean up their credit reporting businesses by the end of 2022, Caixin revealed earlier this year. Yi Gang, governor of China’s central bank, recently reiterated a policy that all financial activities should be put under financial regulatory scrutiny.

Online lending business is prone to risks such as allowing users to borrow too much and borrow from multiple lenders without their knowledge, thus usually leading to a higher-than-average bad loan ratio.

Huabei and Jiebei have been taken over by Chongqing Ant Consumer Finance Co. Ltd., Ant’s newly approved consumer finance unit, as part of the company’s restructuring plan to comply with regulations. The plan aims to separate Ant’s credit service from its payment service.

Contact reporter Zhang Yukun (yukunzhang@caixin.com) and editor Michael Bellart (michaelbellart@caixin.com)

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