'Ma effect' soars on Spanish jaunt

Editorial | Mary Ma 21 Oct 2021

Perhaps there's no individual who has as big an impact on the Alibaba stock - and other Chinese internet and fintech stocks - as Jack Ma Yun.

Alibaba and other platform stocks like Tencent, DiDi Chuxing and ByteDance have gone through a period of batterings since Ma made a slip of the tongue criticizing the Chinese market regulators - a blunder that should have been too obvious to have been made by someone like Ma.

And if his brief resurfacing in video footage aired during a rural teachers' event helped to inject some strength into the Alibaba stock in January, the effect clearly did not last.

The man who was once China's richest individual made a few more so-called public outings afterwards - but none of these sightings in the mainland was as significant as when he was spotted in Hong Kong on October 1.

The Standard was the first to report on Ma's appearance in the SAR.

Since the critical speech in Shanghai that damned the flamboyant billionaire to quasi-disappearance from public view, the October 1 sighting confirmed for the first time that Ma was able to leave the mainland, given that previous sightings were in Hainan, Zhejiang and elsewhere across the border.

A further exclusive report by this newspaper's sister publication East Week that Ma flew to Spain from Hong Kong along with some super-rich peers for a voyage on his HK$1.6 billion mega yacht Zen confirms that Ma is currently at liberty in Europe.

Alibaba's own newspaper in Hong Kong said Ma was in Spain for an agriculture and technology study trip, and not for leisure.

Whether for leisure, study or other reasons, the significance of Ma's current whereabouts is the mere fact that he has gone to Europe after stopping in Hong Kong.

Not surprisingly, Alibaba's Hong Kong stocks rallied immediately by as much as 9 percent during the day.

Other internet stocks also benefitted from the Ma effect, as that may be what Wall Street power brokers had been expecting.

In hindsight, there were also signs that the central government's stringent crackdown on the platform giants in the name of an anti-trust campaign may be starting to ease after earlier clubbing the giants, starting with Ant Group's ill-fated initial public offering plans.

In an interview published by state media, the head of China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, Guo Shuqing, was less hard-hitting than previously.

Although Guo continued to highlight a prevalence of anti-competitive conduct in the mainland's financial sector that has not yet been resolved, he nonetheless praised the internet and fintech companies for responding positively to anti-trust measures.

In particular, Guo said the majority of the issues "have already obtained positive responses, around half of which have been implemented."

With Guo being one of the key policymakers, his remarks were rather positive about the internet and fintech companies this time around.

Recently, state media also softened the rhetoric when quoting president Xi Jinping on the topic.

So have the internet platform stocks bottomed out after a blitz of anti-trust crackdown? It is the relevant question.

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