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Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma Vanished – What Happened?

Jack Ma, CEO of Chinese tech giant giant Alibaba, has been ‘missing in action’ for nearly three months now, his whereabouts unknown, after a major public show of dissent towards CCP in Beijing.  Speculation abound, the former English teacher turned billionaire tech entrepreneur resurfaced last week. And it’s complicated.

Ma had re-appeared in a brief 43 second video, apparently keeping a low profile while he plot some of the biggest business decisions of his career, and which will no doubt impact the entire Asian technology and e-commerce sector. But it hardly drew any attention in the international headlines, drowned-out by the U.S. presidential inauguration.

Ma, one of the richest persons in China, had neither appeared, nor spoke publicly following his spat with Chinese state regulators, who also blocked the IPO flotation of financial payment services giant, the Ant Group. The story has sent shock waves not only through the Chinese tech and business corridors, but also across the globe too.

Barclay Bram from Wired reports…

Jack Ma is no stranger to taking risks. In October 2020 he was China’s wealthiest man, preparing to float Ant Group, a fintech company, in what was billed to be the largest IPO in the world.

“Miracles happen,” he told the assembled dignitaries, academics and political heavyweights who had gathered at the Bund Summit in Shanghai on October 24. At the time, Ant Group was prepared for a dual listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong. “This is the largest listing ever priced in the history of the entire human race, and the pricing happened in a place other than New York City,” he said.

But the listing never happened. That night was the last time that he was seen in public — since that speech, despite being one of the most high-profile people in the global tech sector, Ma has vanished.

In the weeks before his disappearance, there were rumours circulating that regulators in China might be about to slam the brakes on Ant’s listing. But if Ma’s intention was to win over the audience – which included the vice president of China Wang Qishan (who had delivered the opening remarks of the summit), the head of the People’s Bank of China, and all of the major players in Chinese finance – then the rest of his speech was a deft lesson in how to lose friends and alienate people. He described China’s financial system as operating “with a pawnshop mentality” and that the regulatory environment was akin to trying to “use the way to manage a railway station to manage an airport”.

His comments were so brash that they reportedly caught the attention of Chinese president Xi Jinping. Retribution was swift. On November 2 Ma, alongside Ant’s executive chairman Eric Jing and CEO Simon Hu, was summoned and interviewed by regulators. When this interview was made public by the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the Shanghai Stock Exchange decided to halt Ant’s IPO on November 3, just two days before it was supposed to go live.

Alibaba Group, the tech giant that Ma founded and which launched his international reputation, had a 33 per cent share in Ant Group. Its stock price dropped seven per cent on the announcement. But that was not all – over the coming weeks the laws surrounding antitrust would be redrafted in China and Alibaba would be fined. And, all the while, Ma was nowhere to be found.

By the end of the year Alibaba’s shares had fallen by almost a quarter. Ma’s net worth dropped by almost $10 billion over the same period, according to data from Bloomberg. Ma Huateng, the founder of rival tech firm Tencent, pushed him off the top spot to become China’s richest person.

So how did everything go so wrong?

Continue this story at Wired

READ MORE CHINA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire China Files




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