China’s market regulator announced Thursday that it was launching an antimonopoly investigation into e-commerce giant Alibaba in an attempt to tighten government control over one of the world’s most valuable internet companies.
In a concise statement, the state administration of market regulation said it opened the investigation after it was reported that Alibaba had committed monopoly behavior, such as improper restrictions on dealers or other users of its platforms.
Representatives from Alibaba, based in Hangzhou, China, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The investigation is part of a wider official setback against the business empire of Jack Ma, Alibaba’s co-founder and in some ways China’s richest man.
In November, the market regulator published proposed rules to combat anti-competitive behavior among Internet companies. Earlier this month, Chinese regulators halted the IPO of Ant Group, Alibaba’s financially-minded sister company, and removed a listing that was on its way to becoming the largest in history. The move came after Mr. Ma publicly criticized Chinese regulators for being too obsessed with containing financial risk.
On Thursday, four regulators, including the country’s central bank, said officials would soon meet with Ant to discuss new oversight for the financial industry. Ant said in a statement that it “would seriously study and strictly adhere to all regulatory requirements, and go out of its way to do all related work”.
Alibaba has a strong position in online shopping in China. It operates the Taobao Marketplace, an online bazaar where merchants set up electronic booths to sell to customers. Alibaba’s Tmall platform is aimed at larger Chinese and global brands. Alibaba makes money by hosting the marketplaces and charging providers for services.
People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s main newspaper, swiftly endorsed the investigation in an article that appeared to be a sign of wider support and coordination behind the move.
“This is an important step in strengthening anti-monopoly oversight on the Internet,” said the article posted on the newspaper’s website Thursday morning. “This will have a positive impact on regulating an orderly sector and promoting long-term healthy development of platforms.”
This is a developing story. Check for updates again.
Chris Buckley contributed to the coverage.