Alibaba founder Jack Ma makes first public appearance in two months

Billionaire entrepreneur addressed rural teachers in China through a video conference

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, was summoned to a rare joint meeting with the country’s central bank and other financial regulators in November amid an anti-trust probe into his companies. Reuters  
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Billionaire founder of Alibaba Jack Ma made his first public appearance, through a video conference, in almost two months since the halting of his Ant Group's initial public offering and a subsequent anti-trust regulatory probe.

Mr Ma interacted with 100 rural teachers from across the country during a Rural Teachers Award ceremony, an annual event launched by the Jack Ma Foundation in 2015, the Chinese state-owned newspaper Global Times reported.

"We will meet again when the [Covid-19] pandemic is over," Mr Ma said while addressing the teachers.

Shares of Alibaba surged as much as 10.16 per cent in Hong Kong following the release of the video.

Mr Ma, a former English teacher, has been absent from the public realm since the abrupt halt of Ant's planned $35 billion listing.

"Recently, my colleagues and I have been studying and thinking. We made a firmer resolution to devote ourselves to education philanthropy," Mr Ma said in the video.

"Working hard for rural revitalisation and common prosperity is the responsibility for our generation of businessmen," he added.

In December, Chinese regulators launched an anti-monopoly investigation into Alibaba.

Alibaba and payments giant Ant Group are facing anti-trust scrutiny over risks to financial stability. The unravelling of Ant’s IPO in November set in motion a string of decrees regulating China’s technology sector.

A 2010 offshoot of e-commerce giant Alibaba, Ant was due to start trading on November 5 after raising at least $35bn in an IPO that attracted more than $3 trillion of orders from retail investors in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The Hangzhou-based FinTech firm dominates China’s payments market through the Alipay app. It also runs a money market fund Yu’ebao, a credit scoring unit and an insurance marketplace.

Chinese regulators have ordered it to change its lending and other consumer finance businesses, and form a holding company to meet capital requirements.

With more than 700 million monthly Alipay users, Ant’s lending platforms have extended credit to about 500 million people in the 12 months through June, last year, charging annualised rates on smaller loans of about 15 per cent, according to a Bloomberg report.

Mr Ma was summoned to a rare joint meeting with the country’s central bank and other financial regulators in the first week of November.