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SHANGHAI: Alibaba does not expect any material impact from the antitrust crackdown in China that will push it to overhaul how it deals with merchants, its CEO said on Monday, after regulators fined the e-commerce giant $2.75 billion for abusing market dominance.
Shares in Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd rose as much as 9% in Hong Kong trade as a key source of uncertainty for the company was removed, and on relief the fine and steps ordered were not more onerous.
Alibaba has come under intense scrutiny since billionaire founder Jack Ma's public criticism of the Chinese regulatory system in October.
As part of "comprehensive rectifications" sought by regulators, Alibaba will make it easier for merchants to do business with it, Chief Executive Daniel Zhang told an online conference for media and analysts.
Beijing wants Alibaba to stop requiring merchants to chose between doing business with it and rival platforms, a practice known as ‘merchant exclusivity’, which critics say helped it become China’s largest e-commerce operation.
Alibaba executives said despite Saturday's record 18 billion yuan ($2.75 billion) fine and measures ordered by regulators, they remain confident in the government's overall support of the company.
"They are affirming our business model," said Alibaba executive vice chairman Joe Tsai. "We feel comfortable that there's nothing wrong with our fundamental business model as a platform company." SHARES BOUNCE The company stock was up about 8% in the afternoon trade in Hong Kong, adding $48.5 billion to its market value and putting it on course to post its biggest single-day gain in nearly three months.
"Now the penalty is determined, the market's uncertainty about Alibaba will be reduced," Everbright Sun Hung Kai analyst Kenny Ng said.
"Alibaba's stock price has lagged behind the overall emerging economy stocks for some time in the past. The implementation of this penalty is expected to allow Alibaba's stock price to regain market attention." Aside from imposing the fine, among the highest ever antitrust penalties globally, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) ordered Alibaba to make "thorough rectifications" to strengthen internal compliance and protect consumer rights.
"The required corrective measures will likely limit Alibaba's revenue growth as a further expansion in market share will be constrained," said Lina Choi, Senior Vice President at Moody’s Investors Service.
"Investments to retain merchants and upgrade products and services will also reduce its profit margins." SAMR said it had determined Alibaba, which is also listed in New York, had prevented its merchants from using other online e-commerce platforms since 2015.
The practice, which the SAMR has previously spelt out as illegal, violates China's antimonopoly law by hindering the free circulation of goods and infringing on the business interests of merchants, the regulator said.