CHINESE e-tycoon Jack Ma has made an appearance in an online video, ending a months-long disappearance that began shortly after he criticised the Beijing regime.
Speculation over the tech tycoon’s whereabouts had swirled since his last appearance in October.
Many had feared for his life after he blasted China’s regulatory system in a speech at a Shanghai forum.
The Alibaba Group founder’s controversial speech on October 24 set him on a collision course with officials and led to the suspension of a potentially record-breaking $37billion IPO for the firm’s financial affiliate, Ant Group.
But Ma, who was reported to be worth at least £35bn, appeared today in an online video, in which he addressed teachers working in rural China.
His 50-second speech, which was part of an awards ceremony organised by his charity, featured Ma speaking from a room with grey walls, a large painting and floral arrangements.
It was not clear where the room was.
Ant Group today confirmed the authenticity of the video to Bloomberg, but denied to comment further.
Shares in e-commerce giant Alibaba surged by more than 8% on the Hong Kong exchange on the back of Ma’s first sighting in three months.
“Jack Ma’s reappearance has given investors peace of mind after a lot of rumours, allowing them to pile into the stock which had been a laggard in the market,” said Steven Leung, sales director at brokerage UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong.
Rumours swirled after Ma failed to make an appearance on his own talent show, Africa’s Business Heroes, on which he was a judge.
The father of three had earlier tweeted that he “couldn’t wait” to meet all the contestants.
A spokesperson for Alibaba said: “Due to a schedule conflict Mr Ma could no longer be part of the finale judge panel of Africa’s Business Heroes earlier this year.”
Ma’s replacement on the show’s final episode, along with a regulatory clampdown by Beijing on his huge business empire, raised questions about his whereabouts.
The topic “Jack Ma makes his first public appearance” and his video address to the teachers have been trending on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.
Ma is one of China’s wealthiest men and is also well known for his work with the UN and global charities.
He has donated tens of millions of face masks across the world during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
While Ma in 2020 stepped down from corporate positions within Alibaba and Ant, he retained significant influence over the two companies and promoted them globally at business and political events.
China has recently stepped up a regulatory crackdown on anticompetitive behaviour in the internet sector with Alibaba becoming the target of an antitrust investigation launched last month by Chinese authorities.
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