Alibaba founder Jack Ma has emerged in public for the first time after nearly three months out of the spotlight, which fuelled speculation about the billionaire's whereabouts while his company was facing intense pressure from Chinese regulators.
Alibaba founder makes public appearance after long absence
In early January, rumours on Ma's status went rife due to his extended absence from the public eye.
However, they were quelled after Ma made his first public appearance in months, as he addressed 100 rural teachers on Wednesday, Jan. 20, in an online meeting, as part of one of his charity foundation's initiatives, according to CNBC.
The annual event held by the Jack Ma Foundation, which is usually hosted in Sanya, China, celebrates the achievements of rural teachers, who are awarded cash support.
Jack Ma Yun, the English teacher turned entrepreneur and former executive chairman of #Alibaba, showed up at a rural teacher-themed social welfare event via video link on Wed, his first public appearance since Alibaba came under tougher regulatory scrutiny.https://t.co/VXywPHEeyv pic.twitter.com/DKCXhASIhu— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) January 20, 2021
"Due to the pandemic, we're unable to meet one another physically in Sanya this year. However, our promise hasn't changed, and our respect towards teachers remains unchanged," Ma said in his live video speech.
Alibaba stocks spike by six per cent after Ma's reappearance
CNBC reported that Alibaba, which is listed in Hong Kong, soared by five per cent on the news of Ma's public appearance.
By 1pm, it had surged to over six per cent, according to Chinese state media Global Times.
#Alibaba's shares in the #HongKong market swiftly extended gains on Wed, surging to over 6% around 1pm, after its founder, #JackMa, appeared at a social welfare event via video. https://t.co/n5CCdd3031 pic.twitter.com/Cw3RasyTfw— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) January 20, 2021
Faced immense pressure from Chinese authorities
Alibaba and its affiliate company, Ant Group, both founded by Ma, have been facing intense pressure from Chinese authorities after the Chinese billionaire criticised the Chinese government for "stifling innovation" at a summit in Shanghai.
Ant Group's road to IPO hit a roadblock two days before it was expected to start trading after Chinese regulators scrambled to publish a consultation paper to tighten micro-lending laws in China right before its launch, directly impacting Ant's business.
Many noticed the billionaire's long silence after the crackdown on Alibaba and Ant Group, sparking questions on his whereabouts.
However, a source told CNBC that Ma was likely not missing, but simply "being less visible purposefully".
Top image via Global Times