Alibaba Group’s founder Jack Ma, who has been largely out of sight since late last year with regulatory crackdown on his business empire, is currently in Hong Kong and has met business partners in the past few days, two sources told Reuters.
The Chinese billionaire has been holding back since giving a speech in Shanghai last October criticizing China’s financial regulators. This triggered a chain of events that led to the termination of the mega IPO of his Ant Group.
While Ma made a limited number of public appearances in mainland China afterwards as speculation about his whereabouts circulated, one of the sources said the visit was his first trip to the Asian financial hub since last October.
Alibaba did not immediately respond to requests for comments outside of normal business hours. Comments from Ma usually come through the company.
The sources declined to be identified for reasons of confidentiality.
Ma, once China’s most famous and outspoken entrepreneur, met at least “some” business associates over dinner last week, people said.
Ma, who is primarily based in the east Chinese city of Hangzhou, where his business empire is headquartered, owns at least one luxury home in the former British colony, which also houses some of his company’s offshore operations.
In addition to New York, Alibaba is also listed in Hong Kong.
The former English teacher disappeared from the public eye for three months before reappearing in January and speaking to a group of teachers via video. That allayed concerns about his unusual absence from the spotlight and sent Alibaba stock up.
In May, Ma visited Alibaba’s Hangzhou campus during the company’s annual Ali Day employee and family event, company sources said.
On September 1, photos of Ma visiting several agricultural greenhouses in eastern Zhejiang Province, which is home to both Alibaba and its fintech subsidiary, Ant, went viral on Chinese social media.
The next day, Alibaba said it would invest CNY 100 billion (approximately Rs.116.925 billion) in supporting “common prosperity” by 2025.
Alibaba and its technology competitors have been the target of far-reaching regulatory action on issues ranging from monopoly behavior to consumer rights. The e-commerce giant was fined $ 2.75 billion (around Rs.20,720 billion) in April for monopoly violations.
Earlier this year, regulators also imposed a major restructuring on Ant, which resulted in a botched IPO worth $ 37 billion.
© Thomson Reuters 2021