Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma, largely out of public view since a regulatory crackdown on his business empire began late last year, is currently in Hong Kong and has been meeting with associates in recent days, two sources told Reuters.
The Chinese billionaire has kept a low profile since giving a speech last October in Shanghai criticizing Chinese financial regulators. This triggered a chain of events that caused his group Ant’s mega IPO to go to sleep.
While Ma made a limited number of public appearances in mainland China after that, as speculation swirled about her fate, one of the sources said the visit marked her first trip to the Asian financial hub since last October.
Alibaba did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside of its regular business hours. Ma’s comments usually come from within the company.
The sources declined to be identified due to confidentiality constraints.
Ma, once China’s most famous and outspoken entrepreneur, met at least “a few” business associates over lunch last week, the people said.
Ma, who is primarily based in Hangzhou, eastern China, where his business empire is located, owns at least one luxury home in the former British colony that is also home to some of his companies’ offshore business operations.
Alibaba is also listed in Hong Kong, in addition to New York.
The former English teacher disappeared from public view for three months before resurfacing in January, speaking to a group of teachers via video. That allayed concerns about his unusual absence from the spotlight and drove Alibaba shares higher.
In May, Ma made a rare visit to Alibaba’s Hangzhou campus during the company’s annual “Ali Day” staff and family event, company sources said.
On September 1, photographs of Ma visiting several agricultural greenhouses in eastern Zhejiang Province, home to both Alibaba and its financial technology affiliate Ant, went viral on Chinese social media.
The next day, Alibaba announced that it would invest 100 billion yuan ($ 15.5 billion) by 2025 to support “common prosperity”, becoming the latest corporate giant to pledge to support the wealth sharing initiative led by President Xi Jinping.
Alibaba and its tech rivals have been the target of a broad regulatory crackdown on issues ranging from monopoly behavior to consumer rights. The e-commerce giant was fined a record $ 2.75 billion in April for monopoly violations.
Earlier this year, regulators also forced a sweeping restructuring on Ant, whose botched initial public offering of $ 37 billion in Hong Kong and Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style STAR market would have been the largest in the world.
($ 1 = 7.7812 Hong Kong dollars)