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Alibaba shares spring on Jack Ma sighting

Shares at Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (HKG:9988) have jumped almost 10% after founder Jack Ma’s first sighting in three months quelled fears that the business tycoon might be dead.

He was seen on Wednesday speaking by video in an online ceremony for an annual rural teaching event. The brief 50 second-long video made no mention of his disappearance, after Ma vanished from the public eye following Chinese regulators’ decision to halt the Hong Kong listing of his new venture Ant Group in November.

The IPO would have been the biggest share offering in history.

Anti-monopoly regulators in China warned executives of Alibaba and five other tech giants in December not to “use their dominance” to block new competitors from entering their markets. The central bank and other regulators ordered Ant Group to overhaul its business before its IPO debut can go ahead.

Both Alibaba and Ant Group have confirmed they will adhere to regulators’ requests.

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There had been speculation that Ma’s disappearance was due to him being detained by the authorities – although there was no evidence to conclude this – and shares at Alibaba plummeted in the lead-up to the New Year as investors’ fears mounted over Ma’s continued silence.

Ma’s last public appearance had been on 24 October, when he criticised Chinese regulators’ “pawnshop mentality” for hampering innovation in a speech in Shanghai. In November, authorities withdrew plans for what would have been a record-breaking £26bn stock market float for finance giant Ant Group with just two days to go.

Alibaba’s shares hiked 8.52% to 265.00 HKD as of GMT 14:52 as investors breathed a long-held sigh of relief, jump-starting what is likely to be a climb over the next few days and weeks to make up for the loss in confidence that had shed more than 36% off the stock’s annual peak in mid-October.

Ma boasts a title of one of Asia’s richest people, with a fortune estimated at around $58bn.

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