Crackdown on Jack Ma’s empire gathers pace despite reappearance

Crackdown on Jack Ma’s empire gathers pace despite reappearance

Beijing increases pressure on Ant Group hours after tech billionaire breaks public silence

Jack Ma is back. The Chinese billionaire’s re-emergence in a video after a three-month absence reassured investors concerned over his fate and prompted a rally in the shares of Alibaba, the ecommerce group he founded.

The relief over his reappearance this week was shortlived, however. Hours later, the People’s Bank of China proposed new anti-monopoly rules that will primarily hurt Alibaba’s payments affiliate, Ant Group. On Thursday, Alibaba’s Hong Kong-traded shares fell nearly 3 per cent.

Mr Ma had not been seen publicly since October 24 when he criticised Chinese financial regulators at a forum in Shanghai. Ten days later authorities cancelled Ant’s $37bn stock market debut, which would have been the world’s largest.

As well as sparking a sharp sell-off in Alibaba’s shares, the episode has stripped Mr Ma of his status as China’s richest man. His net worth has fallen by more than 10 per cent to $54.5bn, according to Bloomberg data.