Chinese food delivery giant slumps on new fee-cut measures

Food delivery giant Meituan has hundreds of millions of customers in China – Copyright AFP GREG BAKER

Shares of Chinese food delivery giant Meituan slumped Friday as Beijing released new guidelines instructing internet platforms to lower fees for struggling eateries.

The guidelines, published by China’s top economic planner, aim to support a service sector hit especially hard by restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Shares in Meituan, which has hundreds of millions of users in China, plunged almost 15 percent in Hong Kong when markets closed Friday.

Earlier this week, a State Council meeting pledged to scale up support for sectors such as catering, retail and tourism, including temporary tax breaks, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

And internet companies, including those doing food delivery, should be guided to further cut service fees, helping merchants bring down operating costs, according to the latest document from the National Development and Reform Commission.

“Internet platform companies shall be guided to give preferential service fees to catering firms… where medium- or high-risk areas in the pandemic are located,” the NDRC added.

Beijing has embarked on a sweeping regulatory crackdown in the past year or so, clipping the wings of several major internet firms and leaving investors jittery.

Meituan shares have dropped nearly 60 percent in the last year, according to Bloomberg News.

China’s economic growth also slowed dramatically in the second half of 2021, raising concerns about the impact of a strict zero-Covid approach that has left borders mostly closed to the outside world and impacted on supply chains.