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China plans to break up Alipay and force creation of separate loans app

Beijing wants to break up Alipay, the hugely popular payments app owned by Jack Ma’s Ant Group, and create a separate app for the company’s highly profitable loans business, the Financial Times has reported.

The plan will also see Ant turn over the user data that underpins its lending decisions to a new credit scoring joint-venture, which will be partly state-owned, the newspaper reported, citing two people familiar with the process.

State-backed firms are set to take a sizeable stake in Ant’s credit-scoring joint venture for the first time, three people told Reuters last week.

The partners plan to establish a personal credit-scoring firm wherein Ant and Zhejiang Tourism Investment Group Co Ltd will each own 35 per cent of the venture, while other state-backed partners, Hangzhou Finance and Investment Group and Zhejiang Electronic Port, will each hold slightly more than 5 per cent, said one of the people.

According to the FT report, Ant will not be China’s only online lender affected by the new rules. The company did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ request for comment.

In April, Chinese regulators asked Ant to conduct a sweeping business overhaul, including turning Ant itself into a financial holding firm, and fold its two lucrative micro-loan businesses Jiebei and Huabei, into the new consumer finance firm.

Chinese regulatory authorities have been targeting Ant Group and other internet “platform” giants in a wide-ranging crackdown encompassing antitrust and privacy issues, user data and cryptocurrencies.

  • Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill.

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