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Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba suspected to be missing: What’s the buzz?

Tabish Neyaz

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba suspected to be missing: What’s the buzz?

“Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba suspected to be missing,” starts surfacing when he missed the final episode of his own talent show, Africa’s Business Heroes. As per several media outlets, the Chinese Billionaire is not seen in public for over two months now. But what’s the buzz?

Ma was replaced by an Alibaba executive from the judging panel of the final of his own show held in November, the UK telegraph reported. Surprisingly, his picture was also removed from the website.

According to Financial Times, an Alibaba spokesperson said Ma failed to attend the final due to a schedule conflict.

Why the Fuss?

The fuss dates back to October 24,2020 over a speech delivered by Ma. Jack Ma slammed China’s regulation system for stifling innovation. He had also called global banking rules an “old people’s club”.

“Today’s financial system is the legacy of the industrial age,” Ma said in the speech.

“We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system,” he added.

Post the speech,Ant’s IPO was suspended which already had a permission from China’s securities watchdog. The Shanghai Stock Exchange justified the sudden move saying Ant had reported “significant issues such as the changes in financial technology regulatory environment”.

It is also believed that an anti-monopoly investigation was launched by China against Alibaba in December and Ant Group was ordered to restructure its operations.

Freedom of Speech at a cost?

After Ma’s speech in October, not only Ant’s IPO of massive $37 billion was suspended but all of Ma’s venture felt the heat.

Chinese firms like Alibaba and Tencent have been increasingly under the scrutiny of the Chinese government after controlling various sectors including tech, e-commerce - having an influence on virtually every aspect of life.

China’s Central Bank has also asked the company to reorganise lending and other consumer finance operations.

Chinese Watchdog investigates Ant’s Group’s equity investments

Chinese regulators seem to leave no stone unturned as they go on to review equity investments held by Ant Group Co Ltd in dozens of companies. They are even considering whether to instruct Ant to divest some of its investments, mainly in technology and fintech start-ups, if they violate any rules such as creating unfair competition in the market.

In India, Alibaba has investments in tech companies like PayTM, its e-commerce wing PayTM Mall. The company also has invested in food delivery firm Zomato, online grocer Big Basket and e-commerce company Snapdeal.

Enforced divestments would mean that the group would be deprived of lucrative investments. It would further pressurize existing regulatory to revamp its business structure and put up more capital for its key consumer lending business.

Also, divestments would hamper he influence of Ant over the country’s fast-growing fintech industry. Having said that, regulators are reviewing the investments made by Ant over the past few years.

Meanwhile, Ant has started approaching prospective buyers to buy its holdings in more than a dozen portfolio firms. It includes domestic bike-sharing start-up Hellobike.

All of it seem to put Ant under a lot of pressure and this rumour of Ma missing does nothing but aggravate it.

“What’s the buzz?” or “Who to blame?”

With the world looking upto China for political and economical reforms,there is still a big question mark on its social reforms. With the speculations of China developing the COVID-19 virus in its lab to be the best ecomonically, Jack Ma’s missing rumours poses a question on its freedom of expression and speech. The world is concerned about the Uighur Muslims and if China doesn’t come up with a detailed report on Ma’s missing suspicion, the world should have a lot of question for China in the UN general Meeting. And till the time we get a confirmed report on the matter, the question sways between “What’s the buzz?" and "Who to blame?”.

Also Read: Govt Avoiding Core Issue: Farm Unions After the 7th Round of Talks

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