“aControl of informationChina State Market Regulation Administration [SAMR] The investigation started [into] Alibaba Group due to alleged monopolistic behavior, including the implementation of an “exclusive deal” agreement. This brief note, released by the official Xinhua news agency, on December 24, was all it took to shrink China’s most powerful internet giants. Even the announcement three days later of an additional $ 6 billion share buyback did not stop the decline in its market value. By December 28, it was down 13 percent, or $ 91 billion. By comparison, the detailed accusations papers of US regulators against tech giants like Facebook and Google in recent weeks have sparked yawning from investors.
Alibaba investigation is the first of its kind in Chinese e-commerce. Its timing – a month after the authorities abruptly halted the $ 37 billion initial public offering (Underwriting) From Ant Group of fintech company Alibaba, and days before regulators told Ant to curtail lending and wealth management activities – hints that this is China’s way of punishing the two companies’ illustrious co-founders, Jack Ma.
This could be. The ant Underwriting It was put on ice after Mr. Ma likened Chinese state banks to pawnshops. Chinese censors often launch lightning campaigns to deter others from misbehaving, says Angela Zhang of the University of Hong Kong. But the investigation also points to concerns about the online economy, which is lively but also more focused than ever. While investors analyzed the Xinhua note, the share prices of other internet giants, such as Tencent and Metuan, fell almost as strongly as Alibaba’s prices.
The complaint against Alibaba centers on the practice of merchants or brands signing contracts to sell products exclusively on its platform. Those who do business in competing markets risk diverting internet traffic from their online storefronts in Alibaba’s Tmall store to other sellers.
Such arrangements are not new. In 2015 JDr.Com, a smaller online store backed by Tencent, filed a lawsuit against Alibaba over a similar case. Nor is it unique to Mr. Ma’s company, which launched a competition complaint against it Dinar.com in the same year. These and other complaints have been largely ignored by the regulators. Why switch?
Chinese trust regulators have long resisted blocking an industry seen as outperforming the world, and backed in Beijing. Now, as in the West, they fear that a few giants will control indispensable services – e-commerce, logistics, payments, transportation, food delivery, social media, and messaging. Common practices, such as selling products below cost to attract customers, seem more alarming in an industry in which the top three firms control 90% of the market than if they were in a less concentrated situation. In November SAMR He said offering shoppers different rates based on their purchasing power, drawn from user data, could be illegal.
Another reason for the new fervor in China (aside from mocking Mr. Ma) is its greater ability to block confidence. SAMR It was formed only in 2018, by combining the offices of three regulatory bodies. Still struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing electronic market; Most of the employees are busy evaluating mergers and acquisitions. But she has more experience and manpower than she did before – and seems eager to spread it.
This article appeared in the business section of the print edition under the heading “No Money, Some Problems”