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Alibaba shares rally on report of regulatory relief for Ant Group -- Hong Kong shares of Alibaba Group (HK:9988) rose on Friday after a Reuters report said that Chinese authorities were close to concluding their regulatory overhaul of Ant Group, albeit with an up to $1.1 billion fine for the fintech firm. Reuters reported that the People’s Bank of China could disclose the CNY8 billion fine on Ant by as soon as Friday. But the fine will also conclude years of regulatory scrutiny for the firm, after its plans for an initial public offering were shot down in late-2020. Ant will also likely be allowed to seek a financial holding company license, expand its markets, and potentially reapply for a share listing, the Reuters report said. The firm is an affiliate company of Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), and is the parent company of Alibaba’s flagship Alipay - the world’s largest digital payment platform by users. Alibaba’s Hong Kong shares rallied nearly 6% to HKD86.10 ($1 = HKD7.8240) in afternoon trade. Gains in Alibaba spilled over into other heavyweight technology firms, given that the conclusion of Ant’s regulatory woes also marks a potential end to China’s crusade against its biggest internet firms. Shares of Baidu Inc (HK:9888) (NASDAQ:BIDU) and Tencent (HK:0700), which with Alibaba make up China’s BATs trio, rose as much as 1% each on Friday. The gains also helped pare initial losses in Hong Kong's Hang Seng index, which was trading down 0.5% after the midday break. Ant’s regulatory overhaul, after the eleventh-hour scrapping of its 2020 initial public offering, was overseen by the People’s Bank of China. Beijing had cited anti-trust concerns and monopolistic practices by the group as a reason for the crackdown - charges it had also leveled against other major internet firms in the country. Alibaba was fined a record $2.8 billion for antitrust violations in 2021. But Beijing appears to have softened its rhetoric against its internet giants this year, also evidenced by the re-emergence of Alibaba founder Jack Ma after a prolonged absence since late-2020. The Chinese government is struggling to shore up economic growth after the lifting of anti-COVID measures earlier in the year, and is attempting to win back private investors after years of regulatory uncertainty.

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