Ant Group optimizes corporate structure as Jack Ma's voting share drops
Published: Jan 08, 2023 08:43 PM
Photo taken on Oct. 15, 2020 shows the headquarters of Ant Group in east China's Hangzhou city.Photo:Xinhua

Photo taken on Oct. 15, 2020 shows the headquarters of Ant Group in east China's Hangzhou city.Photo:Xinhua

Ant Group announced plans to optimize corporate governance on Saturday, including adding a fifth independent director, adjusting the upper-tier shareholding structure, and changing voting rights of major shareholders.

Voting rights will be changed, from prior Jack Ma Yun voting jointly with acting-in-court persons acting in concert, to the10 shareholders including the founder and representatives now voting individually, according to a statement issued by Ant Group. 

Jack Ma was the control person owning a 34 percent stake of a Hangzhou-based consultancy company, a partner of two equity investment firms holding an aggregate of 53.46 percent of Ant's shares. Therefore, he could indirectly control the voting rights represented by Ant's 53.46 percent of shares through the consultancy company.

After the adjustment, the two investment firms will independently exercise voting rights. Jack Ma will control 31.04 percent of Ant's shares together with four shareholders via holding 20 percent of the equity interest in one of the investment firms. 

As a result, his voting power will decline from 53.46 percent to 6.208 percent. 

After the completion of the adjustment, no shareholder, alone or jointly with other parties, will have control over Ant Group. Individual shareholders can neither control the outcome of the general meeting alone or jointly with others, nor can they nominate the majority of Ant's board of directors. 

The independent directors will comprise a majority of the company's board after adding the fifth, the company said. Certain members of the management have exited Alibaba Group, aiming to enhance the transparency and effectiveness of Ant's corporate governance and strengthen its independence from Alibaba. 

The optimization will improve the public attributes of Ant's governance system, and enhance inner management, while strengthening information transparency and optimizing the corporate management structure with checks and balances in equity as Ant's Alipay becomes as a major fi-tech facility, Pan Helin, co-director of the Research Center for Digital Economics and Financial Innovation at Zhejiang University, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Pan added that Ant Group should continuously optimize its governance structure while clarifying the legal bottom line. "As Ant Group's core problem has been solved, the company will dedicate itself to business operations in the future and better serve the country's real economy," Pan said. 

Chinese regulators recently approved plans by three companies based in East China's Zhejiang Province to invest in Ant's consumer finance unit via a share capital increase, domestic news portal National Business Daily reported.