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Alibaba chairman says China’s antitrust rules ‘necessary’

HONG KONG: The chairman and CEO of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group praised Chinese regulators Monday in a possible attempt to repair ties after the stock market debut of its former financial services arm was suspended following criticism of them by billionaire Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

Beijing‘s announcement of proposed guidelines to enforce anti-competition law against internet companies is “timely and necessary,” Daniel Zhang said in a speech at the government-organized World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, a scenic town in Zhejiang province, just south of Shanghai.

Regulators jolted financial markets on Nov. 3 by suspending the market debut of Ant Group, the world’s biggest online finance platform. That followed a speech in which Ma criticised regulators as backward and an obstacle to business development. The suspension of Ant’s IPO prompted suggestions that Beijing might be punishing Ma while also tightening controls on potentially risky finance industries.

Ma has yet to publicly comment on the matter since the suspension of Ant Group’s IPO.

On November 10, regulators followed with an announcement of proposed guidelines on how anti-competition would apply to internet companies. They highlighted potential areas regulators might target including exclusive contracts.

The move to regulate monopolistic power of China‘s technology giants sparked a sell-off in Chinese internet stocks. Alibaba’s stock price in Hong Kong plunged about 10 per cent following the announcement.

Zhang succeeded Ma in 2019 as Alibaba’s chairman, and concurrently holds the role of CEO. Alibaba owns a third of Ant Group, with Ma owning just over 50 per cent, according to the Ant Group prospectus.

Zhang said the success of Chinese internet industries was due to government policies to encourage innovation — a sharp departure from Ma’s complaint that regulators were too focused on risk and were failing to create opportunities for young people.

“Supervision allows platform enterprises to not only develop well on their own, but also helps the sustainable and healthy development of the entire society and creates innovation,” said Zhang.

“As a member of China’s digital economy, Alibaba is not only a participant and builder of China’s digital economy era, but also a beneficiary,” he said, adding that his company is “full of gratitude for this era.”

Alibaba CEO says China’s draft anti-monopoly rules ‘timely and necessary’

China’s move to draft rules aimed at preventing monopolistic behaviour by internet platforms is “timely and necessary”, Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang said on Monday. Speaking at the World Internet Conference, Zhang said Chinese internet companies have moved to the forefront of the global industry with the help of government policies, but regulations need to evolve.

The industry’s “development and government supervision is a relationship that promotes and relies on each other, so that platform enterprises cannot only develop well themselves, but also serve the sustainable and healthy development of the whole society,” he said.

The annual event from Nov. 23-24 organised by the Cyberspace Administration of China takes place as the country’s internet giants including Alibaba, Tencent Holdings and Meituan face increasing government scrutiny.

Earlier this month the planned $37 billion share market listing of Alibaba affiliate Ant Group was suspended after regulators warned its lucrative online lending business faced tighter scrutiny.

Alibaba’s e-commerce marketplaces and payment services are also expected to face greater oversight under the draft rules published on Nov. 10 by China’s market regulator, which said it wanted to prevent platforms from dominating the market or from adopting methods aimed at blocking fair competition.

Zhang is one of the few Chinese technology chiefs to appear publicly at the event after it was scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other chief executives such as Qualcomm Inc‘s Steve Mollenkopf delivered remarks via video.