, as authorities turned up the pressure on the country´s vast technology sector. Alibaba, China´s largest online shopping portal, has been in the crosshairs of authorities in recent months over concerns of its reach into the daily finances of ordinary Chinese people.
The market´s regulator denied it was planning to fine the company almost $1 billion for anti-competitive behaviour, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, who cited unnamed sources “familiar” with the matter. However, on Friday it hit 12 other tech firms — including giants Tencent, Baidu and ByteDance — with symbolic fines for allegedly flouting monopoly rules. Tencent was fined $77,000 for its 2018 investment in online education app Yuanfudao without seeking prior government approval for the deal, the State Administration for Market Regulation said in a statement Friday. Search giant Baidu has to pay the same amount for acquiring consumer electronics maker Ainemo under the radar in 2014.
Beijing has warned it will take an increasingly ruthless approach to antitrust questions. Premier Li Keqiang last week said the government would “strengthen anti-monopoly laws” and “prevent the disorderly expansion of capital”. Analysts said Friday´s blizzard of fines send a strong signal of the Communist Party´s dominion over the country´s tech landscape. “These penalties send a message: the economy and everything within it must comply with the state´s directive,”
Alex Capri, a senior fellow at the National University of Singapore´s business school, told media. Capri said heavy-handed regulations will rein in the ability of tech firms to gobble up market share and influence with unchecked acquisitions.