Beijing, China Nov 11 – Chinese tech shares tumbled for a second day Wednesday, after Beijing’s market regulator put out draft antitrust rules that signalled a looming crackdown on high-flying internet giants.
Shares of e-commerce leader Alibaba dropped more than 8 percent in Hong Kong — just a week after regulators halted an enormous IPO for the group’s financial arm — while tech rival Tencent slipped more than 5 percent.
Rules published on Tuesday outlined plans to prevent “monopolistic behaviour” among internet companies, a shift from its previously more hands-off approach to antitrust issues.
Other Chinese giants that tumbled in Hong Kong included online shopping platform JD.com, smartphone maker Xiaomi and food delivery giant Meituan.
The guidelines, put out by the State Administration for Market Regulation, take specific aim at internet platforms and exclusivity clauses that hinder competition.
China’s antitrust watchdog is also targeting acts constituting an “abuse of dominant market positions” that could squeeze out smaller rivals — including unfair pricing, restricting transactions without justifiable reason, or pushing different prices and conditions on customers based on their buying habits.
The move to force business partners to “pick one of two”, therefore selling exclusively on one platform, is explicitly cited as a monopolistic practice as well.
China’s tech firms are known to have captive ecosystems. Alibaba’s Taobao platform, for example, supports payments via its own Alipay rather than Tencent’s WeChat Pay.
But Beijing has moved to clip the wings of its fast-growing online platforms, most recently halting a planned record-smashing $34 billion IPO of Ant Group — Alibaba’s financial arm.
The timing of the announcement also raised eyebrows, coming on the eve of China’s mammoth Singles’ Day, the world’s biggest shopping festival, which is propelled by Alibaba.