Alibaba Founder Jack Ma has made his first public appearance in three months, putting an end to speculation about his whereabouts and boosting investor confidence in the e-commerce giant. Ma’s absence had raised questions after reports emerged that he had been replaced in a reality TV show’s final episode and amid a regulatory crackdown by Beijing on his business empire.

Ma, who is highly respected in China, had not been seen in public since October 24 when he criticized the country’s regulatory system at a Shanghai forum. This led to tension with officials and the suspension of Ant Group’s $37 billion IPO. Before this incident, Ma had been actively involved in conferences and events, although his public appearances had been reduced due to the pandemic.

Alibaba and Ma’s charitable foundation confirmed that the billionaire had participated in an online ceremony for rural teachers organized by the foundation. However, they did not provide further comments about his reappearance. In a video lasting 50 seconds, Ma, dressed in a navy pullover, addressed the teachers from a room with grey walls, a large painting, and floral arrangements. The exact location of the room was not disclosed.

Investors reacted positively to Ma’s return, believing that he had deliberately chosen to keep a lower profile temporarily after his controversial comments. Alibaba’s shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange surged by 8.5% upon the news, while its American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) rose by almost 5%. This provided reassurance to investors who had been concerned about Ma’s absence.

The video also included footage from January 10, showing Ma visiting a school in Tonglu county, part of Hangzhou city where Alibaba’s headquarters are located. Steven Leung, the sales director at brokerage UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong, stated that Ma’s reappearance had given investors a sense of relief and had contributed to the rising momentum of the stock.

Ma’s video address and public appearance quickly became hot topics on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, sparking intense discussions among Chinese users. Despite stepping down from corporate positions, Ma still holds significant influence over Alibaba and Ant and continues to promote them at global business and political events. He also mentors management talent within Alibaba.

Alibaba is planning to raise at least $5 billion through the sale of a U.S. dollar-denominated bond this month. While the company’s stock has recovered from losses following the antitrust investigation initiated by Chinese authorities, it still remains around 11% below pre-Ant IPO cancellation levels. Ma’s return has undoubtedly provided some peace of mind for investors amidst the recent challenges faced by the company.

In conclusion, Jack Ma’s reappearance after a three-month absence has relieved concerns and reassured investors about Alibaba’s future. The company’s shares experienced a surge following the news, and there was a spike in discussions about Ma’s return on Chinese social media platforms. As Ma continues to exert influence at Alibaba and Ant, the company plans to raise funds through a bond sale. With Ma back in the public eye, all eyes will be on Alibaba as it navigates the regulatory landscape and pursues further success.

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Alibaba plans to raise $5 billion through share sale
Alibaba to raise $5 billion in dollar bond as China tightens scrutiny