Jack Ma, Chinese e-commerce billionaire, according to reports by CNBC’s David Faber, has been “laying low” and is not missing. He’s very likely to be in Hangzhou, his birthplace and where Alibaba is headquartered. Faber said, “(Ma) is being less-visible, purposefully…but that doesn’t mean that he’s missing.”
Faber added that Ma “hasn’t been captured, he hasn’t been taken and there’s no expectation that the government is going to move on him in some way.” Ma’s speech on 24th October apparently, went too far. He, therefore, understands the need to lay low and rollover. In his speech, he called regulators and state-owned banks too conservative and urged them to be more innovative. Alibaba fell under the scrutiny of the Chinese government after Ma’s speech.
In November, Beijing halted the $37 billion initial public offerings (IPO) of Ant Group, an online finance platform that expanded out of Alipay. The e-commerce firm is in the face of an antitrust probe launched in December, and the business was told to restructure. Alibaba’s share price fell which possibly cost Ma his status as China’s richest businessman.
Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based tech consultancy BDA China, told Reuters, “I think he’s been told to lay low. This is a pretty unique situation, more linked to the sheer scale of Ant and the sensitivities over financial regulation.”
It is important to note that Alibaba’s US-listed stocks jumped over 5.5 per cent over the session on 5th January 2021 to close at $240.40 apiece after Faber’s remarks, which he owed to a source close to Ma.
Ma’s last post on social media was on 10th October and the speculation heightened when he missed appearing as a judge in the final episode of his own show, ‘Africa’s Business Heroes.’ On his Sina Weibo social media account, the last post was dated 17th October.
Ma stepped down as Alibaba’s chairman in 2019 but is yet a member of the Partnership, a 36-member group with the right to nominate a majority of its board of directors. When Ma rattled the regulators with the speech at a business conference in Shanghai attended by some of the regulators he was criticizing. The Vice President of China, Wang Quishan was also in attendance.
This speech clashed with the ruling party’s marathon campaign to reduce surging debt that has propelled fears about a possible financial crisis and this led to international rating agencies cutting Beijing’s credit rate for government borrowing.