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Billionaire Alibaba founder Jack Ma makes first public appearance in three months

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·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2 min read
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WATCH: Jack Ma resurfaces after months of speculation

Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire internet entrepreneur suspected missing, has made his first public appearance in three months.

The South China Morning Post, which is owned by Ma’s company Alibaba (BABA), reported on Wednesday that the billionaire had delivered a 50 second video speech to 100 rural teachers in China, citing a local Chinese report. The publication also reproduced the video on its website.

The short speech is Ma’s first public appearance since October 24 when he made a speech at the Shanghai finance forum. In the speech, Ma criticised Chinese financial regulation and called for reform.

Jack Ma, or Ma Yun, the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate, delivers a speech during the 5th World Zhejiang Entrepreneurs Convention in Hangzhou city, east China's Zhejiang province, 13 November 2019.
Jack Ma, the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, delivers a speech during the 5th World Zhejiang Entrepreneurs Convention in Hangzhou city, east China's Zhejiang province, 13 November 2019. Photo: PA

READ MORE: Who is Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire feared 'missing'?

The speech reportedly angered senior leaders in China and led to regulators pulling the planned IPO of Ma’s financial services company Ant Group. Authorities also launched an anti-monopoly investigation into Ma’s flagship company Alibaba.

Ma’s low profile, which included pulling out of his own show African Business Heroes, led to speculation that he was “missing.”

In his video to rural teachers, Ma said he had been “learning and thinking”. Most of the message was dedicated to thanking teachers and expressing gratitude towards them. Ma, a former teacher himself, established the Rural Teachers Initiative in 2015, according to the South China Morning Post. The project rewards teachers with trips to a tropical island and cash grants.

READ MORE: China's president 'personally blocked' Jack Ma's Ant Group IPO

Ma co-founded Alibaba Group in 1999. The company has grown to become one of the world’s biggest e-commerce companies and has sidelines in everything from film distribution to healthcare. The business is often compared to Amazon in the US. Ma stepped down from Alibaba in 2019 but remains the public face of the business.

Chinese-listed shares of Alibaba subsidiaries rallied on news of the Ma clip. Alibaba shares were up over 7% in the pre-market in New York on Wednesday.

The success of Alibaba, and spin-off business Ant Group, has helped make Ma into one of the world’s richest people. Ma has an estimated fortune of $53bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which makes him the 25th richest person in the world.

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