Alibaba founder Jack Ma tours Dutch research institutes to pursue interest in agricultural technology: report

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Alibaba Group’s founder Jack Ma has toured Dutch research institutes to pursue his interests in agricultural technology, the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported, quoting people familiar with his trip.

The Chinese billionaire has largely fallen from the public eye since he publicly criticized China’s regulatory system in a speech last year. His empire was immediately scrutinized by regulators and the blockbuster IPO of its fintech subsidiary Ant Group, valued at $ 37 billion (roughly Rs.277.400 billion), was suspended.

Ma, once China’s most famous and outspoken entrepreneur, reappeared in Hong Kong in October where he met at least “some” business associates over dinner, two sources told Reuters.

He then flew to the Spanish island of Mallorca, where his luxury yacht is moored, his first trip abroad since his dispute with Chinese regulators, two Spanish newspapers reported last week.

SCMP, owned by Alibaba, released three photos of Ma, which were taken as handouts and dated October 25th.

In two of them he was seen in a white protective coat and with flower pots, while in the third he wore jeans and a hoodie and the caption said that he was analyzing the technology of aluminum extrusion specialist BOAL Systems.

The billionaire, who retired as Alibaba chairman in 2019, will continue to visit European companies and research institutions involved in agricultural infrastructure and plant breeding, according to people familiar with his plans, SCMP reported.

Ma believed that combining the technology he was researching with Alibaba’s cloud computing, big data analysis and artificial intelligence could help modernize Chinese agriculture, people told SCMP.

On September 1, photos of Ma visiting greenhouses in eastern Zhejiang Province, home of Alibaba and Ant, went viral on Chinese social media.

The next day, Alibaba said it would invest CNY 100 billion (approximately Rs.117.440 billion) in supporting “common prosperity” in 2025.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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