Reports of Ma missing gathered steam after he didn’t appear on the final episode of ‘Africa’s Business Heroes’, a talent show he created.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma suspected to be missingImage: Foundations World Economic Forum via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Atom Alibaba Monday, January 04, 2021 - 11:57

Speculation is rife about Chinese billionaire Jack Ma going 'missing' as he hasn’t been seen in public for nearly two months. According to reports, the founder of Chinese e-commerce major Alibaba Group was under the scrutiny of the Chinese government, after the country’s market watchdog began investigation last week into alleged anti-competition practices by Alibaba.

Reports of Ma missing gathered steam after he didn’t appear on the final episode of ‘Africa’s Business Heroes,’ a talent show that he has created. He was reportedly replaced by another Alibaba executive as Ma and his picture was also taken off the website as a judge.

Financial Times reported an Alibaba spokesperson as saying that Ma didn’t take part on the judging panel “due to a schedule conflict.”

Jack Ma stepped down as the chairman of Alibaba in September 2019, 20 years after he founded the company. He handed over the role to the company’s CEO Daniel Zhang and announced at the time that he will continue on the board of the company until its annual general shareholders meeting in 2020.

Speculation around Ma missing comes at a time when his group companies have been under the scanner by the Chinese government. Apart from an anti-trust investigation into Alibaba, China has also reportedly laid out a ‘rectification plan’ for the Jack Ma’s fintech venture Ant Group.

Ant Group, which was set to go public in the world’s largest IPO in 2020 was suspended by the Chinese regulators in November.

According to a report in TechCrunch, the People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, "summoned Ant Group for regulatory talks on December 26th, announcing a sweeping plan for the fintech firm to ‘rectify' its regulatory violations."

The agenda is that Ant Group should return to its roots in payments and bring more transparency to transactions.

"It must obtain the necessary licenses for its credit businesses and protect user data privacy and establish a financial holding company and ensure it holds sufficient capital."

The bank also said that Ant group must "revamp its credit, insurance, wealth management and other financial businesses according to the law and step up compliance for its securities business."

Ant said it has established an internal "rectification workforce" to work on all the regulatory requirements.

This is in addition to the State Administration for Market Regulation starting investigation into alleged anti-competition practices by ecommerce giant Alibaba, as Beijing tightened control of an expanding Internet.

In a brief note, the State Administration for Market Regulation said at the time that it is investigating Alibaba over its "choosing one from two" policy. As part of this policy, merchants are forced to sell exclusively on Alibaba e-commerce platforms and skip rivals like JD.com.

Alibaba Group said in a statement that they have received notification from the State Administration for Market Regulation and that it will actively cooperate with the regulators and that its "business operations remain normal."

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