The move aims to keep Ma from being targeted by the government in Beijing.
In a filing this week, Alibaba announced that Ma “intends to reduce and thereafter limit his direct and indirect economic interest in Ant Group over time” to a percentage that does not exceed 8.8 percent. Ma currently holds 50.52 percent voting rights in Ant.
Jack Ma is taking a weeks-long tour in Europe after largely disappearing from public view for almost two years, according to a report in Bloomberg. The trip adds to signs that China’s government is easing pressure on the entrepreneur as he steps back from a business empire that had made him one of the country’s most powerful people.
The 57-year-old co-founder of Alibaba Group popped up at restaurants in Austria, toured a university in the Netherlands to learn about sustainable agriculture and docked his yacht off the Spanish island of Mallorca, according to reporting by Bloomberg and local media.
Ending a de facto house arrest
While it isn’t Ma’s first trip outside China since he criticized Communist Party officials in 2020 over the regulation of his fintech giant Ant Group, it’s a stark change from the days when the government advised the billionaire to not leave the country.
In one sign of how skittish investors had been about the tycoon’s fate as recently as two months ago, Alibaba shares briefly lost $26 billion after a state media report that authorities had imposed curbs on a person surnamed Ma. Subsequent information made clear the report was referring to someone else.
Ma has had to make significant concessions to get out of the government doghouse. After regulators torpedoed Ant’s hotly anticipated initial public offering in 2020, the company overhauled operations to comply with tighter controls. Ant also regularly discussed how to ‘rectify’ operations with the country’s central bank. In its early years, Ant’s success in services like digital payments and money market deposits threatened the dominance of major state-backed banks.