China launches antitrust probe into technology giant Alibaba

China has launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba Group and will summon the technology giant’s Ant Group affiliate to meet in the coming days, regulators said on Thursday, in the latest blow for Jack Ma’s e-commerce and financial technology empire.

The probe is part of an accelerating crackdown on monopolistic behaviour in China’s booming internet space and the latest setback for Ma, the 56-year-old former school teacher who founded Alibaba and became China’s most famous entrepreneur.

It follows China’s dramatic suspension last month of Ant’s planned $37bn initial public offering, which had been on track to be the world’s largest, just two days before shares were due to begin trading in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

In a strongly worded editorial, the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily said that if “monopoly is tolerated, and companies are allowed to expand in a disorderly and barbarian manner, the industry won’t develop in a healthy, and sustainable way”.

Shares in Alibaba fell nearly 9 percent in Hong Kong on Thursday morning.

Regulators have warned Alibaba about the so-called “choosing one from two” practice under which merchants are required to sign exclusive cooperation pacts preventing them from offering products on rival platforms.

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