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China slapped a record $2.75 billion antitrust fine on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd on Saturday, after regulators determined the e-commerce giant had abused its dominant market position for several years.
The Alibaba business empire has come under intense scrutiny in China since its billionaire founder Jack Ma's stinging public criticism of the country's regulatory system in October. [L1N2M3010]
Following are key events leading up to the fine on Alibaba.
Oct. 21, 2020: Ant Group, Alibaba's fintech unit wins the final nod from China's top securities watchdog to register its Shanghai initial public offering (IPO), clearing the last regulatory hurdle for what is shaping up as history's biggest IPO.
Oct. 24: Ant's founder, billionaire Jack Ma, tells a public event attended by Chinese regulators that the nation's financial and regulatory system stifles innovation and must be reformed to fuel growth. He compares the Basel Committee of global banking regulators to "an old man's club".
Oct. 30: Retail investors bid for a record $3 trillion worth of shares in Ant's dual listing, the equivalent of Britain's annual economic output, betting on demand for Ant's financial technology services in China.
Nov. 2: Four of China's top financial regulators say they conducted regulatory talks with Ma and Ant's top two executives. They recommend tighter regulations for online micro-lending companies to help contain potential financial risks and rein in rising debt levels.
Nov. 3: he Shanghai stock exchange suspends Ant's IPO on its tech-focused STAR Market, citing the regulatory talks as a "material event" and a tougher regulatory environment as factors that may disqualify Ant from listing. The move prompts Ant to freeze the Hong Kong leg of the listing.
Nov. 10: China increases scrutiny on e-commerce marketplaces and payment services belonging to the likes of Alibaba, publishing draft rules aimed at preventing monopolistic behaviour by internet platforms.
Nov. 23: China's increasing oversight of internet platforms is "timely and necessary", Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang tells the World Internet Conference.
Dec. 14: China imposes fines and announces probes into deals involving Alibaba and Tencent Holdings Ltd, telling internet giants it will not tolerate monopolistic practices and warning them to brace for tighter scrutiny.
Dec. 24: Chinese regulators says they has launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba and will summon Ant executives, with the ruling Communist Party mouthpiece warning against monopoly and expansion "in a disorderly and barbarian manner."
Dec. 27: China's central bank says it has asked Ant to shake up its lending and other consumer finance business.
Jan. 20, 2021: Ma makes his first public appearance in three months, speaking to a group of teachers. The video appearance eases concerns about his unusual absence from the limelight and sends Alibaba shares surging.