Alibaba's Jack Ma invests $532 million in financial software firm

BEIJING Thu Apr 3, 2014 7:55am EDT

Jack Ma, the chairman of China's largest e-commerce firm Alibaba Group, speaks during a conference in Hong Kong March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Jack Ma, the chairman of China's largest e-commerce firm Alibaba Group, speaks during a conference in Hong Kong March 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Bobby Yip

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Jack Ma, the founder of China's Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the world's biggest e-commerce firm, will pay 3.3 billion yuan ($531.78 million) to take a controlling share of financial software firm, Hundsun Technologies Inc.

Hundsun Technologies said on Thursday that Hundsun Group, which owns a 20.6 percent stake in Hundsun Technologies, will sell 100 percent of its shares to Zhejiang Finance Credit Network Technology Co, a company 99 percent owned by Ma.

That will give Ma a controlling share of Hundsun Technologies, the company said in a statement to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Ma's move underscores his desire to move into and reshape China's financial services sector, an area that Alibaba's Joe Tsai, the man steering the company's highly anticipated U.S. listing, described as "antiquated".

Chinese Internet companies like Alibaba, Tencent Holdings Ltd and Baidu Inc, are all setting up financial services arms, drawing the ire of China's entrenched banks and attracting increased scrutiny from regulators, who are now debating stricter regulation of the emerging online finance industry.

"The listed company and its shareholders will maintain independence in regards to its human resources, capital, finances, structure and operations," Hundsun Technologies said.

In the next 12 months Hundsun has no plans to change the company's main business and does not plan to make other significant adjustments and will still provide financial IT products and services, according to the filing with the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Ma will not list his Zhejiang Finance Credit Network Technology through Hundsun, the company said.

Alibaba had previously been in talks with Hundsun Technologies and Hundsun Group about investing, Caixin reported last month.

Hundsun is China's biggest software provider for trading securities and fund companies, Caixin reported a source as saying.

The deal also raises concerns that access to Hundsun's financial data may give Alibaba's online finance arm an unfair advantage, Caixin said.

Alibaba's affiliated Alibaba Small and Micro Financial Services Group is also buying a controlling stake in Tianhong Asset Management Co, which runs a China's biggest money market fund, sold through Alibaba's online payment arm.

Hundsun Technologies declined to provide further comment.

A telephone number provided by Ma's Zhejiang Finance Credit Network Technology Co directed callers to Alibaba's Hangzhou offices, where the company is based and a job advertisement listed the company's website as Alibaba.com.

Alibaba declined to comment.

($1 = 6.2056 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Paul Carsten; Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom)

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