Ma, according to the report, has been “lying low” amid several controversies between his companies and the Chinese government.
Several news outlets had reported that Ma hadn’t been seen in person since last October, when he spoke at a forum and criticized what he perceived as the government’s overly strict regulatory rules.
That led to the much-heralded double initial public offering (IPO) of Ma’s Ant Group, which would have been on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong listings and worth $37 billion, being torpedoed reportedly by President Xi Jinping over the slight.
Regulators in China have also been focusing on Ma’s companies and other tech giants, attempting to cut down on the power they have over the markets, PYMNTS reported. The regulators recommended that Ant Group focus primarily on payments instead of its other various interests.
China has also started an antitrust probe into Alibaba, which owns a controlling interest in Ant Group. Ant Group has now enacted a plan to put its online financial businesses in a holding company, which could satiate regulators’ wants, but could also cause the company’s valuation to take a hit. It could also force Ant to put billions in reserves and make it retain big shares of loans it currently sells off in the form of bonds.
In addition, Ma was reported to be replaced as a judge on the game show for entrepreneurs called “Africa’s Business Heroes.”
Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based tech consultancy BDA China, said it was “a pretty unique situation, more linked to the sheer scale of Ant and the sensitivities over financial regulation.”
Alibaba and other big tech companies saw losses as fears of antitrust crackdowns arose due to regulator statements. Alibaba, along with Tencent, Meituan and JD.com, lost nearly $200 billion in Hong Kong.