Where is Jack Ma? Chinese tycoon is ‘lying low’ after criticising the Chinese financial system

Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba and Ant Group. Source: WikiCommons

Chinese billionaire, Alibaba and Ant co-founder, Jack Ma, is ‘lying low’ according to reports by CNBC’s David Faber. Ma hasn’t been in public in two months and fell out of favour with the communist government right before vanishing from public view. Both Alibaba and Ant have been scrutinised by Chinese financial regulators, who Ma openly criticised at a summit in late October.

Mr Ma was last seen on October 31, at the annual Chinse shopping event. He hasn’t tweeted since October 10 and missed the final episode of ‘Africa’s Business Heroes’, a business TV show created under Ma’s philanthropic entrepreneurship programme. On October 12, Ma said he was looking forward to meeting the finalists at the online finale.

On October 24, Mr Ma has appeared at the Bund Finance Summit in Shanghai, where, in a metaphor-rich outburst, he criticised the Chinese financial system for thick regulation, risk-free approach, and ‘pawnshop’ mentality. Since then, his business has come under fire of regulatory scrutiny.

It started in early November when Chinese authorities forced the suspension of Ant’s market debut — an IPO that was expected to raise a record $37bn and would have been the biggest in history. Yet no such luck. Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges have suspended the listing citing ‘major issues’ and changes in ‘the financial technology regulatory environment’. Mr Ma had been summoned for ‘supervisory interviews’.

In late December, Alibaba has come under fire again with regulators initiating an antitrust investigation for alleged monopolistic behaviour. The announcement has triggered a sharp fall in Alibaba’s share price, which slumped 3% on Monday, but jumped 5% thereafter on the CNBC report.

CNBC’s David Faber has solved the mystery amid speculation over Ma’s disappearance reporting that ‘the billionaire is not missing, according to a person familiar with the matter. Instead, Ma has been lying low for the time being.’ Duncan Clark, the chairman of the Beijing-based tech consultancy BDA China, agreed Ma was likely avoiding the public eye. ‘This is a pretty unique situation, more linked to the sheer scale of Ant and the sensitivities over financial regulation,’ he told The Guardian.

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