Ma raises 'soft-landing' hope

Editorial | Mary Ma 21 Jan 2021

The magic wand of mainland tycoon Jack Ma Yun has again demonstrated its power.

A 50-second video of Ma meeting a group of Chinese rural teachers online was all that was needed to make someone a fortune - if they hadn't given up on Alibaba despite Beijing's regulatory crackdown on Ma's empire.

Although the video - first broadcast by a portal under Zhejiang Online - offered no clue as to Ma's current or recent whereabouts, the virtual appearance was assuring enough to shove the stock up here by a massive push of over 8 percent.

That's colossal, bearing in mind that Alibaba alone is estimated to have a market value of about HK$5.7 trillion.

It's little wonder, then, that it's often quipped that Ma is perhaps the most charismatic figure in China.

His disappearance from the public eye since he last hit out at the country's financial regulatory system during a public forum in Shanghai generated a great deal of concerns over his fate - with some venturing as far to speculate that Ma himself might have been placed under investigation by the authority.

If that conspiracy theory were valid, the video could be viewed as evidence of a soft landing for Ma.

During his disappearance, Wall Street power brokers had also expressed similar concerns over his destiny through their mouthpiece newspaper to demand to know Ma's whereabouts.

Too much was at stake.

Zhejiang Online's Tianmu News yesterday broke the news of Ma meeting the rural teachers who were receiving the Jack Ma Rural Teachers Award and showed him addressing the teachers online.

In the video, the tycoon pledged that "we will meet again" in Sanya after the pandemic. He was referring to the seaside city of Sanya, where the ceremony would have been held if not for the pandemic.

The speech may have been addressed to the rural teachers, but the video was intended to tell Wall Street investors and his fans that the Alibaba founder was fine and safe.

But some may still be disappointed as Ma did not say what had happened to him in recent months.

Nonetheless, his public appearance was timely.

First, Alibaba plans to raise US$5 billion through the sale of a US-dollar denominated bond later this month. Would investors' confidence in the bond have been adversely affected had Ma not emerged in time?

Second, it's better late than never to ride the tidal surge as a result of increased inflows of mainland funds into the Hong Kong stock market.

While its peers like Tencent and Meituan have been running out in the front, Alibaba could catch up in wake of the video.

Before the release of the footage, there was already good news after Alibaba was spared in the US as Mike Pompeo worked out the final sanction list before stepping down as secretary of state.

Nobody in Wall Street expects Joe Biden to make an issue out of Alibaba after he takes over from Donald Trump as president.

Wall Street listened as Ma spoke to the rural teachers.



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