Alibaba (BABA) - Get Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Report traded higher on Wednesday after Jack Ma, the Chinese e-commerce giant's billionaire co-founder, resurfaced for the first time in nearly three months after allegedly falling out of favor with China's leadership.
Ma delivered a live-streamed video speech Wednesday to more than 100 rural Chinese teachers, marking his first public appearance since October, when the Chinese government began clamping down on his business empire.
Ma spoke briefly at an annual event he hosts to recognize rural teachers. In one video of the event circulated on social media, China’s most famous entrepreneur can be seen touring a primary school in his hometown of Hangzhou.
A former English schoolteacher, Ma spoke about the importance of reviving China’s countryside and narrowing income disparities by encouraging the return of younger talent to rural areas.
“Recently, my colleagues and I have been studying and thinking. We made a firmer resolution to devote ourselves to education philanthropy,” Ma said. “Working hard for rural revitalization and common prosperity is the responsibility for our generation of businessmen.”
It was the first appearance and first public remarks from Ma, who had stayed out of public view since regulators suspended the highly anticipated initial public offering of his fintech company Ant Group.
Ma had kept out of public view since regulators scuttled the $35 billion IPO, tightened fintech regulations and launched a separate probe into Alibaba - all in a span of weeks.
Speculation about Ma’s whereabouts and his standing with China President Xi Jinping’s government has escalated more recently after regulators ordered Ant to overhaul its business and began the antitrust investigation of Alibaba.
Beijing’s crackdown followed an October speech by Ma in which he ruffled establishment feathers after rebuking “pawn shop” Chinese lenders, regulators who don’t get the internet, and the “old men” of the global banking community.
Shares of Alibaba, the e-commerce giant co-founded by Ma that owns about a third of Ant, jumped 8.5% in Hong Kong. American depositary receipts of Alibaba were up 5.28% at $264.97 in trading Wednesday.