Alibaba's Jack Ma Resurfaces After Three Months, Sparking Stock Rally

Daniel Fowler
January 22, 2021

Ma, a ruling party member, stepped down as Alibaba chairman in 2019 but is a member of the Alibaba Partnership, a 36-member group with the right to nominate a majority of the company's board of directors. Ma, who had stayed out of public view since regulators suspended the initial public offering of his fintech company Ant Group Co., told the teachers he'll spend more time on philanthropy.

The news of Ma's reappearance sparked a rally in the company's Hong Kong-listed shares, which rose almost 9% in Wednesday trade.

It wasn't clear where Ma was when he made the 48-second video, in which he appears seated with his hands clasped in front of him. He had not been seen since publicly criticizing Chinese financial regulators previous year.

Jack Ma had virtually disappeared from the public eye since early November, when he was hauled in front of regulators.

His appearance Wednesday is also a confidence boost for investors, and luxury companies that are selling, or looking to sell, via Alibaba's multiple platforms, such as Luxury Pavillion, Luxury Soho, Tmall, and Tmall Global.

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At the conference in Shanghai, Ma called for reform in China's regulatory system, described the country's financial watchdog as a "pawnshop" regulator, and suggested that the system "stifled business innovation".

A spokesperson from the foundation also revealed that in recent months, "Jack Ma put a lot of energy into researching education for the public, and not long ago also went to the rural boarding school Tonglu County Yuhua Primary School after the merger of schools". Debate about his whereabouts arose because Beijing has in the past quietly detained billionaires that have run afoul of the law, without immediate trial.

The outspoken founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. spoke at an annual online event promoting the achievements of rural teachers Wednesday, according to video of the event seen by Caixin.

The Jack Ma Foundation has held an award ceremony in Sanya for village teachers on the Laba Festival for the last five years. However, the monopoly probe launched in December by China's State Administration for Market Regulation is yet to be resolved and may continue to weigh on the company's future acquisitions and broader business practices. But finance experts said Xi's government was uneasy about Alibaba's dominance in retailing and Ant's potential financial risks.

The assault on Ma's trillion-dollar corporate empire encapsulates a broader campaign to rein in a generation of Chinese tech giants that Beijing now views as wielding too much control over the world's No. 2 economy. "Both are very important to China's economy and its people", he said.

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