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Ant Group reaches agreement with Chinese regulators over restructuring

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Ant Group Co. and Chinese regulators have agreed on a restructuring plan that will turn Jack Ma’s fintech giant into a financial holding company, making it subject to capital requirements similar to those for banks.

The plan calls for putting all of Ant’s businesses into the holding company, including its technology offerings in areas such as blockchain and food delivery, people familiar with the matter said. One of Ant’s early proposals to regulators had envisioned putting only financial operations into the new structure.

An official announcement on the overhaul could come before the start of China’s Lunar New Year holiday next week, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which owns about a third of Ant, erased losses in Hong Kong trading on Wednesday after Bloomberg reported the agreement. The stock closed with a 0.4% gain.

Some market participants had been speculating Ant might be forced to spin off portions of its business, which now looks unlikely, said Shujin Chen, Hong Kong-based head of China financial research at Jefferies Financial Group Inc.

Ant’s restructuring plan marks the first big step in what’s expected to be a lengthy overhaul process, as regulators draw up detailed capital requirements and other guidelines for companies that span multiple financial business lines.

China only introduced its framework for financial holding companies in September, and many of the specifics are still being ironed out. While the rules will eventually provide more regulatory clarity for Ant, they’ll almost certainly force the company to slow the torrid pace of expansion that has made it China’s dominant fintech player and one of the world’s most valuable startups.

Ant is still exploring possibilities to revive its initial public offering, which was abruptly halted by regulators in November, one person familiar with the matter said. But given the financial holding company framework is so new, it’s unclear how long it might take for authorities to sign off on a listing.

Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Francis Chan estimates Ant’s valuation could drop to $108 billion. Ant fetched a $280 billion pre-money valuation before its IPO was halted.

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New CEO appointed to Azercell Telecom

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Zarina Zeynalova has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Azercell Telecom LLC, Report informs.

Zarina Zeynalova holds a post-graduate diploma in People Management & Development from Nottingham Trent University in the UK. She is a Fellow Member of the Chartered Institute of People Management and Development (CIPD). She is a graduate of the Executive Management Development Program at Texas A&M University, USA. She holds a B.Sc. degree from Azerbaijan Medical University.

Z. Zeynalova has over 25 years of professional experience in management and organizational development across multiple geographies of the world. For 20 years she has held various management positions in BP offices in Azerbaijan, UK, and the US. She also held senior management positions at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Pasha Construction Group.

Note that the former head of Azercell Telecom LLC, Vahid Mursaliyev left his post due to the expiration of his contract.

The main priority of the new CEO of Azercell will be to ensure a leading position in the field of digital transformation in Azerbaijan, along with the development of the communication activities of Azercell.

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Oil prices go up 

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The oil prices, which fell this afternoon, rose again during the evening auctions.

Report informs that Brent crude for June delivery went up 0.12 percent to $66.86 a barrel, WTI June crude futures surged 0.22 percent to $63.33, while May futures climbed 0.17 percent to $63.24 a barrel.

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WHO extends emergency mode due to coronavirus

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has extended the global emergency regime due to the COVID-19 pandemic for another three months.

The decision was made after the Committee on Emergency Situations of the WHO International Health Regulation (IHR) discussed the situation at the 7th meeting.

"The WHO Director-General accepted that the COVID-19 pandemic still remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and agreed with the committee's recommendations," the statement reads.

So far, 142 million people worldwide have been infected with the coronavirus, and more than 3 million of them have died.

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