Baba

Alibaba's Jack Ma may not be missing, but his companies are feeling the heat

Wednesday, January 6, 2021 by Robinhood Snacks |

Phew... Alibaba stock jumped ~6% yesterday on news that its multibillionaire founder Jack Ma is reportedly just lying low — not missing. Ma hasn't been seen in public since November, when he missed an appearance on... his own TV show. Ma went from being the only guy who couldn't land a job at KFC, to one of the most well-known businessmen in the world — with a $650B company to boot (Alibaba, aka: "Amazon of China"). But now his "babies" are in trouble...

  • Ant: In November, Ma's huge fintech Ant Group was set to go public in the largest IPO ever. Unrelated: Ma publicly criticized Chinese regulators for essentially killing innovation. Related: Chinese regulators indefinitely suspended Ant's IPO (#squashed).
  • Baba: Last month, China launched an anti-monopoly probe targeting Alibaba, which owns 33% of Ant.

B(old) choice of words... China was likely not thrilled to have its financial regulations referred to as "an old people's club" — which Ma reportedly did at that fateful conference in Shanghai. But comments like that aren't illegal, and can't be the basis for a suspended IPO or an investigation... Or can they?

THE TAKEAWAY

Chinese companies' #1 stakeholder = the Chinese gov’t... Alibaba has over 750M customers, and Ant has over 1B users. This story is a reminder that no matter how huge a company gets, China doesn't necessarily need to justify itself to reign it in. If anything, the massive scale of those companies can make China even more keen on keeping a hand on the wheel: according to Chinese officials, Beijing is trying to shrink Ma's empire and potentially take a larger stake in his businesses.