China's antitrust moves not aimed at private sector nor specific firms, regulator says

·2 min read

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's recent antitrust measures are not aimed at its private sector and do not seek to hinder the development of such firms, a senior banking and insurance regulator said on Friday, as the country looks to expand scrutiny of the fintech space.

Beijing has signalled that it wants to strengthen its oversight, particularly of technology firms looking to expand into the financial space, a reversal of its once laissez-faire approach.

The drive has spotlighted Alibaba's fintech affiliate, Ant Group, whose record $37 billion listing was abruptly halted by Beijing in early November, with its executives called into meetings and told to brace for more regulation.

However, regulators are still supportive of banks and insurers cooperating with internet platforms, said Liang Tao, the vice chairman of China's Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC).

"Antitrust measures are not targeting private enterprises, nor targeting one particular firm," Liang told a news conference in the Chinese capital.

Regulatory authorities are working to strike a delicate balance in their effort to fend off risk without discouraging innovation.

Financial regulators recently talked with a few internet platform companies, including Ant, Liang said, with some taking a positive attitude towards the changes sought.

The central bank has said it asked Ant to ensure the quality of financial services to the public as it works on rectifying its business.

Ant's situation, which has transfixed industry participants and the public, culminated in feverish speculation over the whereabouts of founder Jack Ma that was only resolved this week, by his first public appearance in three months.

Ma had not been sighted since Oct. 24, when he blasted China's regulatory system in a speech in the commercial hub of Shanghai that set him on a collision course with officials and led to the suspension of Ant's IPO.

Relief that he had resurfaced added $58 billion in market value on Wednesday as Alibaba's Hong Kong-listed stock soared.

(Reporting by Tina Qiao, Cheng Leng, Zhang Yan and Brenda Goh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)