Ant Group's chief executive officer, Simon Hu, has resigned after continued troubles at the fintech giant that began with the postponement of its record-breaking initial public offering.
As reported by the South China Morning Post, Hu has stepped down to pursue "philanthropic work," as said in a letter to employees from Ant Group's chairman Eric Jing. Jing will assume the role of CEO.
Hu, 51, has led the financial arm of Alibaba Group (NYSE: BABA; HKEX: 9988) from a mobile wallet provider to the global fintech giant all set for the largest IPO in history – worth $35 billion – scheduled to take place in November via a dual listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
The authorities pulled the listing just days before the giant was set to lift off amid a crackdown on tech titans gaining too much power in the eyes of Beijing. This closely followed a public speech by Alibaba's leader, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, in which he criticized China's leaders for stifling innovation. Tighter regulations in China's financial space, as well as an anti-monopoly crackdown on large corporations, ensued, hitting Alibaba, JD.com (Nasdaq: JD; HKEX: 9618), Tencent (HKEX: 0700; OTC: TCEHY), and others.
China's central bank has said in January that Ant Group may get back to its IPO once it resolves certain issues. However, Ant's valuation could be reduced significantly – from the $300 billion expected in November down to under $150 billion – as the giant continues to struggle against the system. Among other things, the company may be forced to divest some of its operations in banking-related businesses, as various media reported in December. Ant Group has said at the time that it will fully comply with the regulators and has been working on a "rectification plan."
Hu has been with Alibaba and Ant Group since 2005, working up the career ladder until becoming Ant's CEO in 2019 as the company prepared for IPO.
Friday morning in New York, shares in Alibaba were down 4%, at $230.15 apiece.