Ant Group appoints HKEX chairman Laura Cha as independent director as restructuring to meet state concerns nears completion
- The appointments of Cha and Yang Xiaolei have increased the number of independent directors to four, accounting for 50 per cent of the board
- The reshuffle comes as a state-directed overhaul of Ant nears completion and after China signalled an easing of a months-long Big Tech crackdown
Ant Group, the fintech business affiliated with Alibaba Group Holding, has added Laura Cha as a new independent director to its board as part of an executive reshuffle, as the group nears the end of a broad restructuring aimed at addressing government concerns.
Cha, chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and a member of the Executive Council of the Hong Kong government, was listed as an independent director of Ant’s board as of Wednesday, according to information on the company’s website.
Yang Xiaolei, an independent director of Hengfeng Bank and a former lawyer at an affiliate of Citic Group, China’s largest state-controlled conglomerate, has also been hired as a new independent director at Ant.
The appointments of Cha and Yang have increased the number of independent directors to four, accounting for 50 per cent of the board. Hao Quan, a board member at PC giant Lenovo’s parent company Legend Holdings Corp, and Chinese economist Huang Yiping, also serve as independent directors of Ant.
Jiang Fang, a non-executive director on Ant’s board since August 2020 and an Alibaba veteran, is no longer on the list of directors.
This is Ant’s first board restructuring since August 2020, when current Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong, former Alibaba CFO Maggie Wu and long-time Alibaba veteran Peng Lei, quit the board ahead of Ant’s planned initial public offering. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.
Ant Group, the world’s largest financial technology company, saw its planned US$34.5 billion dual IPO in Hong Kong and Shanghai called off by regulators at the last minute after Beijing suddenly moved to toughen regulations in late 2020. Since then the company has undergone a restructuring aimed at addressing government concerns and restoring prospects for an IPO.
As part of the restructuring, Ant Group’s lucrative consumer credit and microloan services, Huabei and Jiebei respectively, were ordered to merge with a state-backed bank.