China's Alibaba to invest $15.5 bln for "common prosperity"

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SHANGHAI, Sept 2 (Reuters) - China's Alibaba Group (9988.HK), will invest 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) by 2025 in support of "common prosperity", it said, becoming the latest corporate giant to pledge support for the initiative driven by President Xi Jinping.

Beijing has been encouraging companies to share wealth as part of the effort to ease inequality in the world's second-largest economy. Other companies that have made similar announcements include Tencent Holdings (0700.HK), which also pledged 100 billion yuan, and Geely Automobile (0175.HK). read more

The government-backed Zhejiang News website said Alibaba's funds will go towards areas such as subsidies for small and medium-sized enterprises and improving insurance protection for gig economy workers such as couriers and ride-hailing drivers.

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It will also set up a 20 billion yuan "common prosperity development fund", the newspaper said, with Alibaba confirming the report.

The logo of Alibaba Group is seen at its office in Beijing, China January 5, 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

The e-commerce giant and its tech rivals have been the target of a wide-ranging regulatory crackdown on issues ranging from monopolistic behaviour to consumer rights. Alibaba was fined a record $2.75 billion in April over monopoly violations. read more

The sector has also attracted criticism for the treatment of delivery workers and ride-hailing drivers, most of whom are not covered by basic social and medical insurance.

Food delivery platform Ele.me and supermarket operator Freshippo, both of which are owned by Alibaba, were among operators called to a meeting last month with government regulators on improving safety and labour rights for delivery workers. read more

($1 = 6.4613 Chinese yuan renminbi)

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Reporting by Brenda Goh Editing by Edmund Blair and David Goodman

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