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Vanguard sells stake in Ant JV, accelerating China exit

Bloomberg
Bloomberg • 2 min read
Vanguard sells stake in Ant JV, accelerating China exit
Vanguard sold its minority stake to Ant, but will provide support until the end of the year to smooth the transition for clients. Photo: Bloomberg
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Vanguard Group Inc. unloaded its 49% stake in a robo-advisory joint venture with Jack Ma-backed Ant Group Co., accelerating its exit from China’s 29 trillion yuan ($5.44 trillion) mutual fund market.

Vanguard sold its minority stake to Ant, but will provide support until the end of the year to smooth the transition for clients, the Malvern, Pennsylvania-based company said in a statement Tuesday to Bloomberg News. Ant didn’t respond to an emailed query outside business hours. The price wasn’t disclosed. 

The US asset management giant decided earlier this year to shutter businesses in China and exit the advisory venture, one step closer to a complete retreat from the world’s second-largest economy where it once saw significant potential. By contrast, global competitors including BlackRock Inc. and Fidelity International Ltd. have been boosting their onshore presence with fully owned fund units betting on the nation’s economic growth and pension reform. 

Vanguard has notified the Chinese government of intentions to close its unit in Shanghai, Bloomberg reported in March, according to people familiar with the matter. It remains unclear when the company will close the unit, which now mainly engages in client liaising and research.

Vanguard scrapped plans for a mutual fund management license two years ago, surprising the market as competitors embraced China’s potential. Fidelity and Neuberger Berman Group have since won approvals and started selling products, while Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Manulife Financial Corp. have acquired full ownership of local joint ventures.

The robo-advisory firm, known as Vanguard Investment Advisors (Shanghai) Investment Consultancy Co., has more than 3 million users. It managed 6.9 billion yuan as of early 2021. 

See also: Feel the pulse of real China at the street level

“We are pleased that the joint venture has developed the sophisticated resources in-house to fulfill its mission to provide high quality advisory services to the public,” Scott Conking, managing director of Vanguard Asia, said in the statement. “Going forward, Vanguard will prioritize its global business in regions in which we offer our own investment products and services.”  

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