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Chinese billionaire Jack Ma plans to give up control of Ant Group Co "to appease regulators following a lengthy crackdown," Bloomberg news agency reported on Thursday. Ma, who doesn't hold any titles at Ant, currently controls 50.52% of voting rights in the company. He could transfer some of his voting power to other Ant officials. The Chinese fintech company's US-listed were trading lower before the bell.

Last year, Reuters reported that Ant was exploring options for Ma to divest his stake in the financial technology giant and give up control.

Ant, an affiliate of Alibaba, has been subjected to a sweeping restructuring by China, whose initial public offering of $37 billion, was derailed by the country's regulators in late 2020. And, with Ma giving up control, the revival of Ant's IPO could be put back another year or more.

The crushing of Ant’s $35 billion IPO in November 2020 sent shock waves across the financial world, burning investment firms from Carlyle Group Inc. to Temasek Holdings Pte that had expected a windfall. It also marked the beginning of a broader crackdown that ensnared some of China’s fastest-growing companies.

The Hangzhou-based firm has since been recasting itself to meet the demands of China’s watchdogs, who have pledged to curb the “reckless" push of technology firms into finance.

The Communist Party’s evolving stance toward the private sector has become one of the most closely watched developments in global markets in recent years, with some observers going as far as to call China’s sprawling internet sector uninvestable.

Ma, who controls Ant, has mostly disappeared from public view since giving a speech that criticized regulators on the eve of the scuttled Ant IPO. Many of his peers have relinquished their formal corporate roles and increased donations to charity to align with Xi’s vision of achieving “common prosperity."

(With agencies' input)

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