The signage is seen at Alibaba Group headquarters during the company’s 11.11 Singles’ Day global shopping festival in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, November 11, 2020.
Aly Song | Reuters
“Despite the record fine amount, we think this should lift a major overhang on BABA and shift the market’s focus back to fundamentals,” Morgan Stanley wrote in a note on Sunday, a day after the fine was issued.
Chinese regulators opened an anti-monopoly probe into Alibaba in December. The main focus was around a practice that forces merchants to list their products on one of two e-commerce platforms, rather than choosing both.
China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) said on a Saturday that this practice stifles competition in China’s online retail market and “infringes on the businesses of merchants on the platforms and the legitimate rights and interests of consumers.”
Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said he does not expect a material impact on the company from the change of this exclusivity arrangement.
Zhang also said Alibaba will introduce new measures to lower the entry barriers and costs for businesses and merchants on the platform. The company will also continue to expand to smaller Chinese cities and rural areas, the CEO added.
China’s technology companies have grown, largely unencumbered, into giants. But Beijing is becoming increasingly concerned by the power of these firms.
Regulatory scrutiny has focused on Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s empire after the billionaire made some comments in October that appeared critical of China’s financial regulator.
Joe Tsai, the executive vice chairman of Alibaba, said on Monday he is not aware of any more investigations regarding the anti-monopoly law.
“We are pleased that we are able to put this matter behind us,” Tsai said.
But Tsai said that Alibaba and its peers are subject to inquiries from regulators on mergers, acquisitions and strategic investments as part of a review process.
In addition to the fine, which amounts to about 4% of the company’s 2019 revenue, regulators said Alibaba will have to file self-examination and compliance reports to the SAMR for three years.
— CNBC’s Christine Wang contributed to this report.