Alibaba’s Jack Ma makes first public look in three months

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Alibaba Group’s founder Jack Ma made his first appearance since October on Wednesday when he videotaped a group of teachers to allay concerns about his unusual absence from public life and shares in the E-commerce giants send.

Speculation about Ma’s whereabouts has spread amid news this month that he was replaced on the final episode of a reality TV show he was a judge and that Beijing has put regulatory pressure on its sprawling business empire .

The billionaire, who commands cultic awe in China, hadn’t appeared in public since October 24, when he blew up China’s regulatory system in a speech at a forum in Shanghai. This put him on a collision course with officials and resulted in the suspension of a $ 37 billion blockbuster IPO for Alibaba’s financial firm Ant Group.

Alibaba and its non-profit foundation both confirmed that it attended an online ceremony on Wednesday for an annual event for country teachers.

In the 50-second video, Ma spoke in a navy sweater from a room with gray walls, a large painting, and flower arrangements. It wasn’t clear where the room was.

Hong Kong-listed Alibaba shares rose over 10% on the news. This was first reported by Tianmu News, a media company backed by the government of Zhejiang, the province where Alibaba’s headquarters are located.

“The reappearance of Jack Ma has reassured investors, after much rumor, that they can pile into the stock that was lagging in the market,” said Steven Leung, director of sales at Hong Kong brokerage firm UOB Kay Hian.

The topic of “Jack Ma’s first public appearance” and his video address to the teachers soon began to spread on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, sparking heated discussions.

Although Ma has stepped down from corporate positions and earnings calls, he remains instrumental in influencing Alibaba and Ant and promoting them at business and political events around the world. He continues to mentor management talent in the Alibaba Partnership, a 35-strong group of corporate managers.

China has tightened government crackdown on anti-competitive behavior in the internet sector, and Alibaba has been the target of an antitrust investigation launched by Chinese authorities last month.

The company plans to raise at least $ 5 billion this month by selling a US dollar denominated bond.

Reporting by Brenda Goh and Luoyan Liu in Shanghai, Kane Wu, Donny Kwok and Sumeet Chatterjee in Hong Kong, Yingzhi Yang, Cheng Leng and Zhang Yan in Beijing and the Shanghai Newsroom; Arrangement by Gerry Doyle and Edwina Gibbs

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