China technology companies including Ant Group and Tencent Holdings Ltd. are under pressure to share consumer-loan data with authorities to help reduce fraud, Reuters reported in an exclusive story Tuesday.
The central bank and other regulatory bodies are demanding internet companies connect their loan data to the country's credit agencies, according to people familiar with the matter.
Ant collects data on more than 1 billion people and 80 million merchants via the payment application Alipay while competitor Tencent's WeBank draws 200 million users to its payment service.
While potentially a powerful tool against fraud and excess borrowing, the plan won't be popular with China's technology companies who have been unwilling to do so in the past.
These companies currently charge banks high fees for access to information gathered on the millions who use their services every day.
"Smaller banks are generally in a weaker position when they partner with fintech giants like Ant. They have heavily relied on Ant's data to underwrite loans and manage risks," one regulator told Reuters.
This puts lenders at risk when defaults occur. "They have to shoulder most of the losses," the official, who requested anonymity, said. "It's crucial for lenders to have better access to more comprehensive and detailed credit data on borrowers."
China has until recently maintained a laissez-faire attitude to the workings of financial technology companies - the last-minute cancellation of Ant Group's dual listing in November by regulators was the first sign of changes.
As the largest financial technology company offering consumer loans, Ant came first in the authorities' line of fire. After its $37 billion initial public offering was delayed, parent company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is under investigation for monopolistic practices. Founder Jack Ma has become a recluse.
Tencent and Ant declined to comment on the Reuters' report and the People's Bank of China didn't immediately respond to requests.