Alibaba billionaire Jack Ma told Chinese regulators in November that he would give portions of Ant Group, the FinTech he founded, to the country’s government in what so far has appeared to be an unsuccessful effort to make peace with authorities in the country, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
Ma told regulators at a meeting: “You can take any of the platforms Ant has, as long as the country needs it,” WSJ reported, citing an unnamed source.
An Ant Group spokesman refused to discuss the substance of the meeting involving Ma and regulators, WSJ reported.
Ma, who through Alibaba and other ventures became the wealthiest man in China, for years maintained a positive relationship with government authorities, but those relations have appeared to observers as strained of late. WSJ attributed the tension to a speech Ma delivered in which he reportedly said the government of President Xi Jinping negatively affected innovation.
WSJ reported that the dispute between Ma and government officials was the cause for the cancellation of Ant Group’s planned initial public offering (IPO) earlier this year. That IPO reportedly was expected to raise as much as $35 billion.
More broadly, China reportedly has been clamping down on companies that regulators conclude are amassing too much market share.
Xi ordered both the blocking of Ant’s IPO and the initiation of an investigation into potential risks posed by Ant, WSJ reported.
China’s leaders have long struggled to simultaneously cultivate technology development while also maintaining strict control over many aspects of the country’s economy and of public life in the country. WSJ quoted experts as having said China already has been nationalizing some FinTech businesses.
Ma has not appeared in public since delivering the Oct. 24 speech that angered China’s leaders, according to WSJ.