Jack Ma reappeared for the first time after more than two months of absence from public events, from the Chinese authorities’ crackdown on Ant Group and Alibaba: the tycoon intervened in an online conference with a hundred teachers in rural areas, in the scope of its philanthropic activities to recognize the efforts of educators in the most remote areas of the country. His appearance, reported on a local blog, was re-launched by the Chinese media.
Ma’s public return could reduce rumors about his fate, while Beijing continues with investigations into the reorganization of Ant Group and Alibaba, which have been in the antitrust’s sights since November last. The Alibaba stock flies to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange where it closes business gaining 8.5%: the rally in the shares of the e-commerce giant is driven by the return of its founder after more than 2 months of absence.
Following the investigations conducted by the Antitrust that accused Jack Ma of exercising monopoly activity, the tycoon was excluded from the elite list of Chinese entrepreneurs, published by the state media.
Ren Zhengfei of Huawei Technologies, Lei Jun of Xiaomi Corp and Wang Chuanfu of BYD were praised for their contribution to the Chinese economy “in compliance with the rules of development and market rules”. Alibaba’s reported revenue in the last quarter rose 37% annually to 221.08 billion yuan ($ 33.88 billion), a figure that far exceeded analysts’ estimates.
Ma, a former English teacher, founded Alibaba Group in 1999, when China had few internet users. The Alipay online payments service was launched five years later, before regulators said such activities would be allowed. Alibaba and Alipay grew so much that they dominated the reference industries. But who wanted to go public on his Ant Group (an online finance platform) at the end of last year was blocked by the system, which he himself called “too conservative”, urging him to be more innovative. The failed stock debut caused Alibaba’s stock to collapse, costing its status as China’s richest tycoon.
Current frictions are a new reality for investors who may not have carefully considered how the company’s rise as a powerful tech titan could be a threat to the status quo. Regulators are focusing on Alibaba’s broader business.
Ant Group, which still wants to go public, is working on a “rectification plan” while Alibaba said it will work with regulators on the anti-monopoly investigation. This series of events led to a tension between Beijing and Ma, which culminated in the absence of his name on the list of Chinese business leaders, which the billionaire took as yet another affront.