China is tightening rules and imposing capital demands on sprawling empires such as Ant Group and China Evergrande Group in its latest attempt to curb risks in the nation's $49 trillion financial industry.
The new regulations will require licenses for non-financial companies that do business in at least two financial sectors, and which are designated as "financial holding companies," the State Council said Sunday on its website. Any application must be submitted within 12 months after the rules take effect Nov. 1.
Companies with a banking operation and financial assets of more than 500 billion yuan ($73.1 billion), or those with financial assets exceeding 100 billion yuan must seek a license. Those that are denied a license must sell their stakes in the financial companies or give up control, according to the rules.
Chinese authorities are plugging regulatory loopholes and stepping up their bid to maintain stability as the COVID-19 pandemic pummels economic growth and bad loans pile up. In 2018, the central bank identified Evergrande, HNA Group Co., Fosun International Ltd., Tomorrow Group as well as billionaire Jack Ma's Ant as financial holding companies, putting them under increased scrutiny because of their growing role in the nation's money flows and financial plumbing.
The move will "prevent spillover of risks and promote healthy circulation between the economy and the financial industry by imposing complete, sustainable and thorough regulation on capital, behavior and risks," the People's Bank of China said in a separate statement.
Companies covered under the regulation will need at least 5 billion yuan in actual paid registered capital, which should account for at least 50% of the combined registered capital of their controlled financial entities, according to the rules.