China’s Regulatory Crackdown Begins to Sweep Up Foreign Firms

China’s Regulatory Crackdown Begins to Sweep Up Foreign Firms
Employees walk past the logo for Alibaba Group during an Internet Technology Expo in Beijing, April 30, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Nearly a year since Chinese authorities brought the Ant Group’s initial public offering, or IPO, to a halt, the domestic tech industry is still reeling from a relentless crackdown that has since broadened to include other sectors of the economy. In its latest reshuffling, the Alibaba Group replaced its chief financial officer and reorganized its sales team. The decision is part of the tech giant’s continuing restructuring efforts to make the company “more agile” by devolving power to the leaders of each business line.

Elsewhere, ride-hailing giant Didi announced its plan to back out of the New York Stock Exchange and aim for a listing in Hong Kong instead. The stunning reversal came less than six months after its IPO placed the company in the crosshairs of Chinese regulators. How the listing will be transferred to Hong Kong is as of yet unknown, as Didi still has to iron out legal issues with shareholders and meet Hong Kong’s strict regulations on initial public offerings—the very reason the company had opted to go public in New York in the first place. Its exit from the NYSE now marks the end of an era in which Chinese companies could freely raise foreign capital in stock markets overseas.

Yet even as Chinese companies brace for a range of mounting challenges under the current business and political environment, their adaptation strategies seem insufficient to cushion against the potential fallout of the regulatory upheaval.

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