Shares in Alibaba Group (NYSE: BABA; HKEX: 9988) slid 2% to $227.40 apiece Monday morning on rumors that its founder and former leader Jack Ma is missing.
Speculations arose after Chinese billionaire Ma didn’t show up at the finale of his talent show, Africa’s Business Heroes. In all, he has not made a public appearance in more than two months, writes Yahoo! Finance.
China’s e-commerce titan Alibaba has been facing intense regulatory scrutiny since November in an anti-monopoly probe. Last week, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) imposed its second fine in a month on Alibaba in the maximum amount of 500,000 yuan. It followed consumer complaints involving raised prices ahead of the Double Eleven sales festival, while the first was related to forcing exclusive deals on merchants.
Meanwhile, Ma’s Ant Group, the fintech arm of Alibaba, has been dealing with the shakeup. The giant, which operates mobile wallet Alipay, may be forced to divest some of its most profitable businesses. Its initial public offering, slated to occur simultaneously in Hong Kong and on the STAR market in Shanghai (and set a $37 billion record) has been suspended indefinitely.
Beijing besieged the business empire after Ma criticized China’s leaders for stifling innovation at a public speech in October.
“Today’s financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age,” Ma said in the speech, as reported by Yahoo! Finance.
“We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system.”
He then received a subpoena from China’s top financial regulators: The People's Bank of China (PBC), the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), and the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC).
Ma stepped down from his chairman role at Alibaba in September 2019 at the company’s 20th anniversary. He has said that he plans to devote himself to philanthropy and education. He did, however, retain 8% of Ant Group and maintained 50% of the voting rights.