Factbox: From education to bitcoin, China’s season of regulatory crackdown

Students wearing face masks are seen inside a classroom during a government-organised media tour at a high school as more students returned to campus following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China May 7, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

SHANGHAI, July 27 (Reuters) – China’s months-long regulatory crackdown on a range of private companies has left tech upstarts and decades-old firms operating in a new, uncertain environment.

Late last week, the State Council, or cabinet, imposed unexpectedly stringent requirements on the private tutoring sector, a $120 billion industry that includes many overseas-listed firms. read more

Here are sectors that recently faced regulatory pressure:

EDUCATION

Regulations issued on Saturday barred private, for-profit tutoring companies from raising capital overseas.

The rules also said tutoring centres must register as non-profits, may not offer programmes for subjects already taught in public day schools, and barred classes on weekends and holidays.

The announcement triggered massive selloffs among publicly listed tutoring firms.

Shares in New Oriental Education and Technology Group (9901.HK) and TAL Education Group (TAL.N), two of the top firms for after school education, have both fallen by about 70% since Friday, as news circulated of the pending moves.

A competitive higher education system has made tutoring services extremely popular with parents, but the government has lately sought to reduce the cost of child-rearing, in an effort to nudge up a lagging birthrate.

ONLINE FINANCE

In November, shortly before Ant Group Co Ltd was set to list in what would have been a record share sale, China’s banking regulators issued draft rules calling for tighter control of online lending, in which Ant was a giant player.

The regulations set limits on cross-provincial online loans and capped loans to individuals.

The following day, the People’s Bank of China halted Ant Group’s IPO. In April, the regulator called on Ant to separate its payment business from its personal finance business. read more

E-COMMERCE

Regulators have also cracked down on traditional e-commerce.

In April, the State Administration of Market Regulation imposed a record fine of $2.75 billion on Alibaba for engaging in the practice of “choose one from two”, in which an e-commere platform bars vendors from selling on rival sites. read more

The regulator has also imposed fines on smaller companies for other practices related to consumer rights and labour.

In May, it fined rival JD.com 300,000 yuan for promoting false information about its food products.

This week, the regulator ordered China’s food delivery companies to provide better protection for workers. read more

News of the order caused a drop of roughly 15% in shares of Meituan, a top online meal provider.

RIDE-HAILING

In June, the Cyberspace Administration of China told top ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing to stop accepting new users, within days of going public on the New York Stock Exchange. read more

That step knocked about a fifth off the company’s share price.

Analysts and investors say the measures on Didi have more to do with big data and overseas listings by Chinese firms than competitive practices.

The regulator initially cited violations of consumer privacy but later issued a separate set of draft regulations for data-rich Chinese firms to run a security review before listing overseas.

At the time of the CAC investigation, China’s market regulator forced Didi and other firms to pay fines of 500,000 yuan for failing to report acquisitions of smaller companies. read more

BITCOIN

In May, three financial regulators widened curbs on China’s cryptocurrency sector by barring banks and online payment firms from use of cryptocurrency for payment or settlement.

They also barred institutions from providing exchange services between cryptocurrencies and fiat currencies, and prohibited fund managers from investing in cryptocurencies as assets.

In the following weeks came measures from provincial-level governments curbing bitcoin mining. read more

Those curbs triggered a wave of mining shutdowns countrywide, with state-linked tabloid Global Times estimating that 90% of mining operations would shut in the short term.

PROPERTY

On Friday, China’s housing ministry and seven other regulators told the property management sector to “improve order”.

The CSI 300 Real Estate sub-index (.CSI000952) has fallen more than 10% since the notice.

With China’s economy improving after a slump in 2020 due to the coronavirus, authorities have stepped up efforts to curb rampant borrowing in real estate this year, in hopes of preventing an asset bubble.

Other regulatory measures include borrowing caps on developers known as “the three red lines,” and caps on property loans by banks.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Some experts point to China’s online gaming industry as a ripe target for a crackdown, as it is perennially in Beijing’s crosshairs over concerns about gaming addiction among young people.

It is likely the government will crack down on many games still being published without proper licenses, or even on specific ones that misuse user data, says Rich Bishop, who tracks China’s app regulations as chief executive of Beijing-based app publisher AppInChina.

Investors are also keeping a close eye on health care firms, after the State Council last month urged a reduction in medicine prices in 2021, calling for reform of a complex, multi-tiered system of diagnosis and treatment.

Anxiety over the likelihood of regulations has pushed the CSI300 Health Care sub-index (.CSI300HC), which tracks health-care related stocks, down more than 9% since Friday.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz
Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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