Alibaba Group Holdings Corp (NYSE:BABA) founder, Jack Ma has been absent from the public in the last two months including his absence in the final episode of a TV show in which he is a judge. This has fuelled speculations regarding his whereabouts following the regulatory clampdown on his business empire.
Ma has not appeared in public since October
Ma has not been seen in public since October in a Shanghai forum where he blasted the regulatory system of china. His speech put him on a collision course with regulators leading to the suspension of the much-awaited $37 billion Ant Group IPO. The IPI would have catapulted Ma to be the richest person in Asia but ever since the suspension his fortunes have been dwindling. On the day of the suspension of the IPO Alibaba’s traded shares shed around $3 billion in value.
According to the Financial Times, MA was replaced on the final episode of the TV show Africa’s Business Heroes as a judge in November. An Alibaba spokesperson told Reuters that his replacement was because of a conflicting schedule and declined to comment further. Although the news coverage regarding Ma’s public absence has triggered speculation on Twitter, there has been no significant trending topic in mainland China regarding his absence. This could be because sensitive topics are always censored in the country.
Regulatory clampdown on Ma’s empire
Since Ma’s October speech, Chinese authorities have zeroed in on his business empire including an antitrust probe against Alibaba and also directing Ant Group to change its lending and consumer finance operations. One of the changes the fintech firms should partake in is creating a separate holding entity to meet capital requirements.
Beijing-based tech consultancy BDA China’s Chairman, Duncan Clark said that he thinks that Jack Ma had been told to lay low. He explains that this is a unique situation that is more connected to the sheer scale of Ant Group and financial regulation sensitivities. Contrary to speculation that Ma has been disappeared possibly captured, Ma could be missing on purpose to keep a low profile.