Alibaba's Response to SEC Investigation Reveals Chinese Government Ownership in Over 12 Business Units

By Thea Felicity

Feb 26, 2024 09:05 AM EST

(Photo : Photo by WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images)
(FILES) The logo of Alibaba is seen at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai on July 6, 2023. Shares in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba plummeted on November 16, 2023, after the company said it would cancel the spinoff of its cloud computing arm because of US curbs on exports of advanced chips. Alibaba shares were down eight percent in late morning trade on Wall Street. The company had planned to split the group into six distinct entities, with the intention of taking them public.

Alibaba Group Holding has revealed a broader extent of Chinese government ownership in its business units than previously acknowledged, prompted by an inquiry from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

Bloomberg reports that the disclosure was made in filings submitted in the US and Hong Kong, indicating that Chinese state-owned enterprises or foreign sovereign wealth funds partially own more than a dozen of Alibaba's entities. 

Alibaba then stated that these disclosures were made in response to feedback from the SEC staff, amending its earlier filing from July.

The timing of these filings coincides with the Chinese Communist Party's recent announcement of increased involvement in guiding the nation's technology and science development. 

China's tightening control over its tech sector has raised concerns among investors and heightened the possibility of closer scrutiny in the US.

READ NEXT: US Expands List of Chinese Tech Companies It Says Are Helping China's Military

Government Stakes in Alibaba

Alibaba detailed that Chinese state-owned enterprises held stakes in six direct-sales businesses, contributing less than 6% of its total revenue in the fiscal year ending March 2023.

The ownership stakes ranged from below 10% to below 30%. Additionally, state-owned companies acquired ownership in various business entities focusing on sports, health, logistics, and local consumer services. 

The company also disclosed minor stakes held by sovereign wealth funds from Singapore, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.

Despite the revelations, Alibaba did not specify the entities involved in its filing, citing its complex corporate structure currently undergoing restructuring. 

At the moment, the company is considering splitting several core business lines into standalone entities. Notably, Chinese government entities acquired so-called "golden shares," typically 1% nominal stakes, in units of Alibaba and other leading Chinese tech firms, granting them potential influence over key decisions.

Over the past year, Alibaba has faced challenges in overhauling its extensive e-commerce, logistics, and cloud operations.

In response, CEO Eddie Wu has assumed direct control of core businesses to regain user trust amid intensifying competition and regulatory risks both domestically and internationally.

READ MORE: Venture Capital Investment in China Surged Amidst Global Slowdown

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