Wed. Mar 3rd, 2021

By Joe McDonald, AP Business writer

BEIJING (AP) – China’s highest-profile entrepreneur Jack Ma appeared in an online video on Wednesday, ending a 2 1/2 month absence from public view that sparked speculation about the future of the e-commerce billionaire and his Alibaba group Put it.

In the 50-second video, Ma congratulated the teachers in support of their foundation and made no mention of their disappearance or official attempts to consolidate control over Alibaba and other Internet companies over the past six months. The video appeared on Chinese business news and other websites.

The typically panicked Ma disappeared from public view after criticizing her in an October 24 speech at a Shanghai conference to upset regulators. Days later, regulators suspended the planned multibillion-dollar stock market debut of Ant Group, a financial platform that has exited from Alipay, Alibaba’s payment service.

This sparked speculation online about 56-year-old Ma, China’s biggest global business personality, and the symbol of a technical glitch, being detained or facing legal trouble. Alibaba and the government did not respond to questions asked about it.

“Jack Ma participated in the online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher Initiative Program on April 20,” the Jack Ma Foundation said in a statement on Wednesday. The Foundation and Alibaba did not respond to questions about Ma’s position and when their next public event could take place.

President Xi Jinping’s government says that anti-monopoly enforcement against Internet companies will be a priority this year. Alibaba and other companies have been fined for violating anti-monopoly rules. Some social media services have been reprimanded for flaws in implementing censorship.

According to Chinese media, in her October speech, Ma complained that regulators had an ancient “pawn shop mentality” and that innovation was being hampered. He appealed to make it easy for entrepreneurs and youth to take loans.

It collided with the ruling party’s marathon campaign to reduce rising debt in China’s financial system that prompted fears about a possible bank crisis and for rating agencies to cut Beijing’s credit rating for government lending inspired.

Some suggested that the ruling Communist Party was setting an example of Ma to show entrepreneurs defying regulators. But finance experts said Xi’s government was uneasy about Alibaba’s dominance in retail sales and Ant’s potential financial risks.

Anti-monopoly regulators warned officials Alibaba and five other tech giants in December not to use their dominance to prevent their rivals from entering their markets. The central bank and other regulators have ordered Ant to expand its business before its market can grow further.

Alibaba’s share price in Hong Kong is down 10% since October, but it has suffered some losses from its low point this month.

A member of the ruling party, Ma stepped in as chairman of Alibaba in 2019, but is a member of the 36-member group Alibaba Partnership, with the right to nominate a majority of the company’s board of directors. He played a leading role in developing Ant, which grew from Alipay, Alibaba’s online payment service.

In Wednesday’s video, Ma, wearing a blue sweater over a white T-shirt and gray trousers, smiled and waved to the audience. It included a scene that stated that the video showed Ma visiting a school supported by her foundation on 10 January.

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