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Ant Group publishes financial self-discipline rules amid tougher Chinese scrutiny – Reuters

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FILE PHOTO: A sign of Ant Group is seen during the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, November 23, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Ant Group flagged a set of financial self-discipline rules on Friday amid intense scrutiny on its activities by authorities and the country’s overall tightening of financial technology regulations.

The rules, the first of their kind released publicly by the financial technology giant, comes some four months after China suspended the group’s $37 billion plan for a share listing in both Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Chinese regulators have tightened their grip on fintech companies, amid concerns over systemic financial risks brought by the financial empire affiliated to China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

In response to the intense regulatory pressure, the group has been reining in some of its operations, taking steps to bring its capital requirements in line with those of banks, and revamping itself into a financial holding firm.

In a statement, Ant said its consumer loan platforms should not issue loans to minors, and must prevent small business loans from flowing into stock and property markets.

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The group’s credit-rating service Zhima Credit will also not be available to financial institutions including micro loan lenders, it said, without elaborating the specific risk of such collaborations.

As a reflection of regulators’ tough stance on financial risks, Guo Shuqing, head of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, warned last week that bubble risk was a core issue facing China’s property sector.

About Ant’s business restructuring, Guo said there were no restrictions on the financial business it develops but that all of its financial activities should be regulated by laws.

Earlier, Ant lowered its borrowing limits for some young users of its Huabei virtual card product. The credit limit reduction is intended to promote more “rational” spending habits among users, it has said.

Reporting by Cheng Leng, Yingzhi Yang and Ryan Woo; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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