The billionaire founder of Ant Group, Jack Ma, is to give up control of the Chinese fintech giant after a regulatory crackdown.

Ant Group said that after the change no-one would have overall control.

The formerly flamboyant Mr Ma has seldom been seen in public since criticising China’s financial sector in 2020.

Following that criticism, Ant Group’s planned stock market flotation was abruptly halted.

Ant Group runs Alipay, the main online payment system in China, which has eclipsed cash, cheques and credit cards.

Mr Ma, a former English teacher who founded e-commerce giant Alibaba, directly and indirectly controls more than 50% of Ant Group.

However, after the changes in governance structure, he will control just over 6%, according to an Ant Group statement.

In November 2020 Ant’s £26bn stock market flotation, which would have been the world’s largest, was cancelled at the last minute.

At the eleventh hour Chinese authorities cited “major issues” over regulating the firm.

Some analysts saw it as an attempt by the Chinese government to humble a company that had become too powerful and a leader who had become too outspoken.

The regulatory intervention came after Mr Ma had told a financial conference that traditional banks had a “pawn-shop mentality”.