2 min read.Updated: 02 Mar 2021, 02:09 PM ISTKeith Zhai, The Wall Street Journal
Executive chairman also said company would look for ways to help workers monetize some shares after the company called off listings
Facing discontent among employees, Ant Group Co.’s executive chairman said the Chinese financial-technology giant would eventually go public and that the company would look for ways to help workers monetize some of their shares.
In a lengthy memo on Ant’s internal website in response to an employee’s post asking about the company’s future and how it plans to retain talent, Chairman Eric Jing said the company’s management is reviewing its remuneration and incentive policy and working on a “short-term liquidity solution" for employees that would take effect in April, according to people who saw the memo. The solution will likely be a program to buy back some of the employees’ shares, according to people close to the company.
Employee morale has been low at Ant since Chinese regulators forced the company to call off its blockbuster initial public offerings in Hong Kong and Shanghai in early November.
Many of Ant’s 16,000-plus workers had received share-based compensation, and they were on the cusp of reaping a windfall from Ant’s listing, which had valued the company at more than $300 billion last fall. That was a doubling in Ant’s valuation from mid-2018, when its last round of private fundraising valued the company at $150 billion.
Instead, the owner of popular payments network Alipay has been forced to restructure its business, dial back riskier activities and fall fully in line with financial regulations that are likely to crimp its growth and profitability. Investors and analysts expect Ant to have a lower valuation as a result, and the company is planning to overhaul its business into a financial-holding company that would be overseen by China’s central bank.
“The company will certainly become a public company. I’m fully confident in that," Mr. Jing said in the memo, while stressing that the priority now is rectifying businesses in accordance with regulatory requirements. It was the first time Ant’s senior management broadly addressed employees and their concerns about the company’s future since the listing was shelved.
Ant has been in close discussion with regulators over the rectification plan, which will address such issues as corporate governance, setting up a financial holding company and the payment businesses, Mr. Jing said without elaborating, according to the people who saw the memo.
“Ant will not be weakened by the rectification, but will chart a healthier and greater development path," he said.