Setting aside months of speculation of where Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma was after he was not seen on a public platform for months, the Chinese billionaire appeared on a public platform through a video meeting with 100 rural teachers in China on Wednesday morning.
This was the first public appearance of the entrepreneur since October which resulted in a jump in the stocks of the e-commerce giant at the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Following reports the Ma was not present at the final episode of a TV show featuring him as a judge, there was a surge in speculation over social media about the whereabouts of China’s highest-profile entrepreneur. The speculations were also fueled because of a regulatory clamp down in China of the Ma businesses.
During his last public appearance on October 24, in a speech at a Shanghai forum Ma had severely criticized the regulatory system of China which resulted in a confrontation with the Chinese regulators with the final outcome being the suspension of a $37-billion IPO of Alibaba’s financial affiliate Ant Group.
The first reports of Ma having met the teachers via a live video conference on Wednesday appeared on Tianmu News, a news portal under Zhejiang Online, which has the supported of the provincial Zhejiang government.
Ma participated in the online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher Initiative event on Wednesday, said the Jack Ma Foundation. The attendance of Ma in the online event was also confirmed by Alibaba Group.
After the reports of his reappearance, there was a 6 per cent jump in Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listed shares whereas the wider Hang Seng index increased by 0.64 per cent.
What makes Ma’s reappearance interesting is that fact Alibaba is set to raise at least $5 billion from the sale of a US dollar-denominated bond later this month. It has been reported that the sale proceeds from the bond could yield as much as $8 billion which would potentially be used for general corporate expenditure by the e-commerce giant.
Chinese regulatory authorities launched an antitrust investigation last month into the business practices of Alibaba. In recent months, the regulators have initiated measures to clamp down on alleged anticompetitive behaviour by the companies in China’s booming internet industry.
In the video message which lasted for only 50 seconds, Ma was seen wearing a navy pullover while speaking directly to the camera placed in a room that had grey marble walls and a striped carpet. The exact place from where Ma was speaking was not apparently clear from the video or the Tianmu News article.
Teachers who were awarded the Jack Ma Rural Teachers Award were addressed by Ma.
“We cannot meet in Sanya due to the epidemic,” he said in the speech, which did not discuss his whereabouts. “When the epidemic is over, we must find time to make up for everyone’s trip to Sanya, and then we will meet again!”
“We shouldn’t over-interpret his reappearance into public view this time, said Xie Pu, founder of Chinese tech website Techie Crab. “Alibaba still has a good governance structure — there are partners and a board of directors.”
(Adapted from Reuters.com)