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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Absent on TV show, questions on Jack Ma’s whereabouts

Alibaba Group has said that Ma did not appear on the TV show — Africa’s Business Heroes — because of a scheduling conflict.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: January 5, 2021 10:11:03 am
Jack Ma missing, Alibaba Group founder, Chinese government crackdown, world news, Indian express newsJack Ma and his companies have been under the scanner of Chinese regulators. (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)

With Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba Group, not turning up for the final episode of a TV show on which he was to appear as a judge, social media has become rife with speculations over the outspoken billionaire’s whereabouts — particularly given that he and his companies have been subjected to a crackdown from Chinese regulators over the past few months.

Alibaba Group has said that Ma did not appear on the TV show — Africa’s Business Heroes — because of a scheduling conflict.

Since September, the Chinese government has reportedly launched a “coordinated regulatory crackdown” — the most significant one of which was the last moment halting of the $34.5-billion public offering of Alibaba Group’s financial services arm Ant Group Co in November. This, in addition to an antitrust probe launched by China into Alibaba Group, led to a $140-billion decline in Alibaba’s market value. The antitrust probe into Alibaba, the country’s largest company, resulted in Chinese regulators ordering Ant to separate its lending business from its online payments division.

Ant is an investor in India’s digital payments firm Paytm and food delivery platform Zomato.

According to reports, Alibaba Group — once the poster boy of China’s digital prowess — has been under scrutiny since Ma delivered a speech back on October 24, 2020, criticising the government’s regulation system for stifling innovation and likened global banking rules to an “old people’s club”.

Less than a fortnight later, Ant’s IPO was suspended with the Shanghai Stock Exchange stating that the firm had reported “significant issues such as the changes in financial technology regulatory environment”. Ma co-founded Alibaba in 1999 as a business-to-business marketplace with 18 friends. In 2003, he launched retail site TaoBao and payments app Alipay to compete with eBay and Paypal in China.

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