Alibaba founder Jack Ma buys into Chinese software firm Hundsun Technologies

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is to pay US$531 million (S$671) for a stake in a domestic software developer for the financial industry, a statement said.

Zhejiang Finance Credit Network Technology, which is owned by Mr Ma, will take a 20.62 per cent stake in Shanghai-listed Hundsun Technologies, the latter said in a statement.

Mr Ma stepped down as chief executive officer of Alibaba last year, but remained as chairman to provide strategic direction.

Alibaba, the world's largest online retailer, is expected to list on Wall Street later this year.

The deal would effectively make Mr Ma the controlling shareholder of Hundsun, the statement said, adding that China's commerce ministry must still grant regulatory approval.

Hundsun provides software solutions to a range of financial institutions including banks and stock brokerages. Trading of its shares on the Shanghai market has been suspended since mid-March and will resume on Tuesday.

There has been speculation Mr Ma is planning a backdoor listing of Alibaba's microfinance services group, which is expected to be left out of the vehicle for the US initial public offering.

But Hundsun dismissed the possibility of further asset injections into the company.

"Zhejiang Finance Credit and its actual controller Ma Yun (Jack Ma) are not aiming for a backdoor listing or asset injection through this deal, nor do they have any plans to inject assets or business into the company in the next 12 months," it said.

Zhejiang Finance Credit mainly provides back-office support for risk management, according to the statement.

Forbes magazine ranked Mr Ma as China's eighth richest person last year with wealth of US$7.1 billion.