The billionaire founder of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, reappeared in the last hours in a virtual meeting with rural teachers after months without knowing his whereabouts, time in which the relationship between Beijing and the business group he created has deteriorated.
In the video, posted on the newspaper portal Tianmu News, published in his native province (Zhejiang, East), Ma greets a hundred rural teachers from the Asian country selected for an award and tells them that “when the epidemic ends, we will meet again.”
Although his speech does not make any mention of his situation, it does mention that during “the last six months” -that is, a period that includes the time in which he has been away from the spotlights- he has remained active participating in the process of selection of teachers for the award he presented.
Following the release of the video, Alibaba’s shares closed 8.52% higher on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, having plunged more than 18% since the businessman last appeared publicly.
Ma had not appeared in public since the end of October 2020 and the international press had made conjectures about his whereabouts, even using the term “disappeared” after the friction he had with the Chinese Government, which forced the suspension in November of the departure to stock exchange of its fintech Ant Group, which was to star in the largest public offering in history.
In his last public appearance, days before Ant’s IPO derailment, Ma had delivered a speech very critical of the Beijing strategy of minimizing risks in the financial system and with traditional banks, which he assured are still managed as “pawn shops.”
Jack Ma stopped being the richest businessman in China.
The rumors grew in November after Ma did not serve as a judge on the television show ‘The heroes of business in Africa’, founded by himself and in which he was replaced by another Alibaba executive.
Meanwhile, the official media maintained a coordinated silence for weeks that coincided with reports about alleged orders from Beijing not to give more media coverage to the antitrust investigation recently opened against the group.
Last week, sources familiar with the situation had explained to EFE that Ma was trying to maintain a “low profile” and that he was “fine,” while qualifying rumors that he had been detained or that the authorities had banned him. leave the country of “unfounded“.
According to the list of billionaires compiled by Bloomberg, Ma is no longer the richest man in China as his fortune has been reduced by about 10 billion dollars to 52.9 billion, now ranking fourth on that list behind the heads of the beverage company Nongfu Spring and the technology companies Tencent and Pinduoduo, rivals of Alibaba.
Ma left the presidency of Alibaba in 2019 – 20 years after it was founded – and does not hold any executive position at Ant, although he is a majority shareholder of it. EFE