There is fierce speculation on social media about the disappearance of multi-billionaire Jack Ma, the Chinese online store group Alibaba CEO. Ma hasn’t been seen in public since late October.
Speculation has been growing since he failed to show up for a TV series in which he was a judge. At the same time, Chinese regulators are tightening the thumbscrews on its companies.
At the end of October, Ma criticized the Chinese government during a meeting in Shanghai. Ma disagreed with Chinese government regulations, he said.
This cost him dear: the IPO of his tech company and payment services provider Ant Group, estimated at $ 37 billion, was unexpectedly cancelled. That would have been the largest IPO ever.
Ma was replaced in the very last episode of the TV series Africa’s Business Heroes in November, and The Financial Times had already reported. According to an Alibaba spokeswoman, Ma could not participate due to an agenda problem, but she did not want to say anything else. Experts think that Ma should keep quiet for a while and that he, therefore, avoids the publicity.
China has recently been cracking down on anti-competitive behaviour of the country’s foremost technology groups. It was recently announced that Chinese competition regulators had started an investigation into Alibaba for suspected abuse of its strong dominant position.
Also, Chinese authorities are investigating dozens of Ant Group’s investments, and the Chinese government also wants Ant Group to stop providing consumer credit and asset management services. According to Beijing, the company should only focus on payment services, such as the payment app Alipay.