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Ant weighs financial holding company to placate regulators, sources say

Ant Group Co Ltd is considering folding most of its online financial businesses, including consumer lending, into a holding company that would be regulated like traditional financial firms, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

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(Reuters) -Ant Group Co Ltd is considering folding most of its online financial businesses, including consumer lending, into a holding company that would be regulated like traditional financial firms, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: A thermal imaging camera is seen in front of a logo of Ant Group at the headquarters of Ant Group, an affiliate of Alibaba, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China October 29, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

The regulators, mainly the central bank, want Ant to fold its wealth management and insurance distribution businesses as well as minority-owned MYbank online lender into a financial holding company, one of the sources told Reuters.

It was not clear if Ant’s payments business Alipay, which was launched in 2004 and is second-biggest revenue generator for the group after consumer lending, would also come under the holding company structure.

Ant declined to comment.

Beijing is also seeking to potentially take a larger stake in billionaire Jack Ma’s businesses, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing unidentified Chinese officials and government advisers.

Alibaba Group and Ant did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment on the report, which provided no details on which of the businesses the government is eyeing.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank, said in a statement to Reuters that Ant is drafting a plan to set up a financial holding firm, and that the company should ensure that all its financial operations are placed under regulatory supervision.

Ant controls a range of financial institutions, including securities and insurance firms, and should set up a holding firm according to law, the central bank said on Tuesday.

The proposed changes to the Chinese fintech giant’s businesses are yet not final and subject to revision, said the sources, who sought anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Chinese regulators abruptly halted Ant’s $37 billion initial public offering in Shanghai and Hong Kong, which was set to be the world’s largest, last month.

Since then, regulators have set about reining in Ma’s financial and e-commerce empire after he publicly criticised China’s regulatory system in October for stifling innovation.

On Sunday, the central bank said it had asked Ant, whose businesses include payment processing, consumer lending and insurance products distribution, to shake up its lending and other consumer finance operations. [anL1N2J702J]

The move, if finalised, would slash the valuation of the revamped Ant, which was to be valued at $315 billion on market debut mainly due to its structure as a technology vendor to financial institutions rather than as a financial firm itself.

A spinoff from Alibaba, Ant in recent years presented itself as a technology company, which helped it to benefit from the far richer valuations the market affords to tech firms than to financial institutions.

Bloomberg News on Tuesday said Ant was planning to move into the holding company any unit that would require a financial licence, pending regulatory approval.

In September, the PBOC issued rules to regulate financial holding companies so as to avert systematic risks to China’s vast financial sector. These steps included a capital threshold for such licences.

One source said Ant’s financial holding firm should be regulated accordingly, but expected lots of discussion between Ant and regulators over which businesses would be placed into the holding firm.

In its IPO prospectus filed in August, Ant said it would use newly set up unit Zhejiang Finance Credit Network Technology Co to apply for a financial holding licence, without disclosing which of its financial businesses would be folded into that.

After years of largely hands-off treatment of domestic internet finance platforms, Beijing has adopted a slew of rules in recent months to sharpen oversight of the booming sector.

China’s banking and insurance regulator on Tuesday warned consumers to guard against borrowing spurred by internet finance platforms that hide the real costs of such debt.

Reporting by Julie Zhu in Hong Kong and Cheng Leng in Beijing; Additional reporting by Maria Ponnezhath and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Writing by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Jason Neely

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/china-ant-group/update-4-ant-weighs-financial-holding-company-to-placate-regulators-sources-say-idUSL1N2J9051

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Reuters

Facebook apologizes for second outage in a week, services back up

Facebook Inc apologized to users for a two hour disruption to its services on Friday and blamed another faulty configuration change for its second global outage this week.

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Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Instagram logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Oct 8 (Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) apologized to users for a two hour disruption to its services on Friday and blamed another faulty configuration change for its second global outage this week.

The company confirmed its social media platform, Instagram, Messenger and Workplace were impacted by the latest outage.

“Sincere apologies to anyone who wasn’t able to access our products in the last couple of hours,” the company said. “We fixed the issue, and everything should be back to normal now.”

During the latest outage, some users were unable to load their Instagram feeds, while others were not able to send messages on Facebook Messenger.

People swiftly took to Twitter to share memes and jokes about the second service disruption this week. “Looks like Facebook went to a 3-day work week. Monday and Friday shutdowns?” a Twitter user said.

Instagram thanked users for their patience and “for all the memes this week”.

On Monday, the social media giant blamed a “faulty configuration change” for a nearly six-hour outage that prevented the company’s 3.5 billion users from accessing its social media and messaging services such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

The outage on Monday was the largest that web monitoring group Downdetector had ever seen and blocked access to the apps for billions of users, leading to a surge in usage of rival social media and messaging apps. read more

Moscow officials said Monday’s outage showed Russia was right to develop its own social media networks, while EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager highlighted the repercussions of relying on just a few big players, underscoring the need for more rivals. read more

Both the outages piled pressure on Facebook this week after a former employee turned whistleblower accused the company on Sunday of repeatedly prioritizing profit over clamping down on hate speech and misinformation. read more

Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru and Sheila Dang in Dallas; Additional reporting by Bhargav Acharya; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

“Sincere apologies to anyone who wasn’t able to access our products in the last couple of hours,” the company said. “We fixed the issue, and everything should be back to normal now.”

Source: https://www.reuters.com/technology/instagram-feeds-not-loading-some-users-2021-10-08/

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Reuters

Chinese social media platforms to “rectify” financial self-media accounts

China’s top social media platforms, Wechat, Douyin, Sina Weibo and Kuaishou, said on Saturday they would begin to rectify irregular practices of “self-media” accounts that publish financial information, reported state media Global Times.

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WeChat app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

SHANGHAI, Aug 28 (Reuters) – China’s top social media platforms, Wechat, Douyin, Sina Weibo and Kuaishou, said on Saturday they would begin to rectify irregular practices of “self-media” accounts that publish financial information, reported state media Global Times.

This follows an announcement by China’s cyberspace regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), that it would look into accounts that have repeatedly released financial news illegally, distorted economic policy interpretation, badmouthed financial markets, spread rumours and disrupted network communications.

The term “self-media” is mostly used on Chinese social media to describe independently operated accounts that produce original content but are not officially registered with the authorities.

Wechat said in a statement on Saturday that from now until Oct. 26, it would investigate and shut down financial self-media accounts that “badmouth the financial market” and “blackmail and spread rumors.”

Sina Weibo, Douyin and Kuaishou also released similar statements on Saturday, reported the Global Times, with Sina Weibo and Kuaishou adding that they would severely crack down on accounts that violate the rules.

The announcements come amid a recent crackdown by Beijing on the tech sector, with the latest regulations targeting “chaotic” celebrity fan culture and algorithms that technology companies use to drive their business. read more

China is also framing rules to ban internet companies whose data poses potential security risks from listing outside the country, including in the United States. read more

Reporting by Emily Chow. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The term “self-media” is mostly used on Chinese social media to describe independently operated accounts that produce original content but are not officially registered with the authorities.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/world/china/chinese-social-media-platforms-rectify-financial-self-media-accounts-2021-08-28/

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Reuters

Death toll rises to 77 from Turkey floods, 47 reported missing

The death toll from flash floods that swept through several towns in Turkish Black Sea provinces last week has risen to 77 people and emergency workers are continuing to search for 47 who are missing, authorities said on Monday.

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A damaged vehicle and a partially collapsed building are seen following the flash floods that swept through towns in the Turkish Black Sea region, in the town of Ilisi, in Kastamonu province, Turkey, August 15, 2021. REUTERS/Mehmet Emin Caliskan

ISTANBUL, Aug 16 (Reuters) – The death toll from flash floods that swept through several towns in Turkish Black Sea provinces last week has risen to 77 people and emergency workers are continuing to search for 47 who are missing, authorities said on Monday.

The floods last week brought chaos as torrents of water tossed dozens of cars and heaps of debris along streets, destroyed buildings and bridges, closed roads and damaged electricity infrastructure.

Sixty-two people died as a result of floods in Kastamonu province. Another 14 people died in Sinop and one in Bartin, the Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said.

Forty-seven people were reported missing in Kastamonu and Sinop, it said, adding that seven others were receiving treatment in hospital.

Drone footage showed massive damage in the town of Bozkurt in Kastamonu province, where rescue teams searched demolished buildings at the weekend.

More than 2,000 people were evacuated from affected areas, some with the help of helicopters and boats, AFAD said, adding that more than 8,500 personnel were involved in the emergency response efforts.

Weather forecasters warned of further flooding due to expected heavy rainfall on Monday in Black Sea provinces to the east of the regions affected last week.

Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Dominic Evans and Rosalba O’Brien

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Drone footage showed massive damage in the town of Bozkurt in Kastamonu province, where rescue teams searched demolished buildings at the weekend.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/death-toll-rises-70-turkey-floods-47-reported-missing-2021-08-16/

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