Alibaba Hikes Buybacks to $25 Billion as Crackdown Signals Ease

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(Bloomberg) — Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. ramped up its share buyback program to $25 billion, expanding that arsenal for a second time in less than a year to stanch a $470 billion loss of value during Beijing’s internet crackdown.

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The board of China’s e-commerce leader has approved the program, which will run for two years through to March 2024, the company said in a statement. It also appointed a new independent director in Shan Weijian, chairman of alternative asset management house PAG. Shan, a longtime investor in Chinese companies, will replace Ericsson Chief Executive Officer Börje Ekholm from March 31.

Alibaba’s up-sized buyback represents one of the largest shareholder-reward programs in China’s giant internet industry, which is only just starting to emerge from a year of unparalleled regulatory scrutiny into sectors from online commerce to social media. Alibaba reported its slowest growth on record during the December quarter, and Tencent Holdings Ltd. is expected to do the same on Wednesday.

Tencent Stays in Beijing’s Sights Even After $490 Billion Drop

Chinese tech corporations have until recently rarely resorted to big shareholder-return programs like dividends or stock repurchases. But the country’s largest corporations have resigned themselves to a new era of cautious expansion, nearly two years into a bruising internet crackdown that quickly engulfed everything from e-commerce to ride-hailing and online education. Alibaba itself has pledged to prioritize user retention over acquisition.

The online commerce giant has acquired 56.2 million American depositary shares under its previously announced share buyback program for about $9.2 billion, Alibaba said in its statement on Tuesday.

(Updates with new board member from the second paragraph)

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