Alibaba shares slumped 9 per cent to their lowest since June on Monday, as the firm’s upsized $10-billion buyback programme failed to ease concerns about a regulatory crackdown on co-founder Jack Ma‘s e-commerce and financial empire.
A sharp selloff over two sessions has knocked almost $116 billion off the tech giant’s Hong Kong-listed shares.
The downward spiral intensified when Chinese regulators announced on Thursday the launch of an antitrust investigation into Alibaba and said they would summon its Ant Group affiliate to meet. Alibaba’s US shares sank more than 15 per cent during the day.
“The antitrust investigation into Alibaba has yet to specify the penalties, which is worrying investors a lot,” said Zhang Zihua, chief investment officer of Beijing Yunyi Asset, adding a probe outcome could “greatly change” the company valuations.
Putting investors more on edge was news over the weekend that China’s central bank had asked Ant to shake up its lending and other consumer finance operations.
These developments are part of a crackdown on monopolistic behaviour in China’s booming internet space in general, but Mr Ma’s business empire in particular after he publicly criticized the regulatory system for stifling innovation.
Last month, Chinese regulators abruptly suspended Ant’s blockbuster $37 billion initial public offering in Shanghai and Hong Kong, which was on track to be the world’s largest, just two days before its planned debut.
“The new regulations are hurting big internet platforms, so you see Tencent and other tech companies are also seeing their share prices going down,” said Li Chengdong, a Beijing-based tech analyst.