The founder of Chinese online retailer Alibaba, billionaire Jack Ma has not appeared in public for more than two months, his whereabouts are unknown.
The Financial Times found that in November, Ma did not appear in the final of the Africa’s Business Heroes competition, which he founded, in which young African entrepreneurs compete for grants from a prize fund of one and a half million dollars. Ma was supposed to sit on the jury of the competition, but he did not attend the filming of the final episode of the show, he was not included in the promo video, and his name was removed from the list of jury members on the site. Alibaba said Ma was unable to attend the final of the competition due to a busy schedule.Ma’s last social media post was dated October 17, Taiwan News reported.
In late October, at a conference in Shanghai, Ma called international financial regulations outdated and said that Chinese banks adhere to the”pawnshop mentality”. This happened shortly before the launch of Ant Group, a fintech company that is part of the Alibaba holding and also operates China’s largest mobile payment platform Alipay. On November 5, Ant Group, in which Ma holds a controlling stake, was to conduct an IPO on the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges. It was expected to be the largest in history, with the company raising $ 34.4 billion.
However, a couple of days before the release of the stock exchange, Chinese financial regulators called Ma and Ant Group executives for a conversation. They were warned that the business is waiting for a thorough inspection, sources told Reuters. The IPO of Ant Group was postponed — although earlier the Chinese authorities assured top managers of the company that they would not interfere with it, wrote the Financial Times. In addition, in December, Chinese regulators accused Ant Group of violating the principles of fair competition and infringing on the rights of consumers. Ma was advised not to leave the country, a source told Bloomberg.
In connection with the disappearance of Ma from the public field in the Chinese social network WeChat, it is discussed that the businessman either escaped from China, or he was “forced to disappear,” Techcrunch notes. Duncan Clark, the head of BDA China, a business consulting firm based in China, suggested to Reuters that Ma was “lying low” amid the authorities ‘ attention to his business.
56-year-old Jack Ma founded Alibaba in 1999 and stepped down as its head in 2019, while remaining a co-owner of the company and one of the key persons in it. It is now the second largest Chinese company with a market capitalization of $ 635 billion. Until recently, Ma was the richest man in China, but over the past two months, due to the fall in Alibaba shares, his fortune has fallen by $ 11 billion — from 61.7 to 50.9 billion. Now, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index (which tracks the wealth of the world’s richest people on a daily basis), he is the fourth richest person in China.