© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Jack Ma, billionaire founder of Alibaba Group, arrives at the “Tech for Good” Summit in Paris, France May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
BEIJING (Reuters) -Alibaba founder Jack Ma has returned to China, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Monday, ending a more than year-long sojourn overseas that was viewed by industry as reflecting the sober mood of China’s private businesses.
Ma, one of China’s best known entrepreneurs, left mainland China in late 2021 and has been seen in photographs in Japan, Australia and Thailand in the months since.
Once one of the country’s most outspoken businessmen, he retreated from the public limelight in late 2020 after criticising China’s regulatory system that was later blamed for triggering a wide-ranging regulatory crackdown by Beijing.
While Chinese authorities said in recent months they had ended the crackdown and would look for ways to support the private sector, Chinese entrepreneurs said they saw Ma’s decision to stay overseas as a factor hindering confidence.
Alibaba (NYSE:) shares in Hong Kong rose more than 4% after the SCMP report was published.
The SCMP report did not state when Ma had returned to China but said, citing sources, that he visited a school he founded in the city of Hangzhou, the home of Alibaba and financial technology firm Ant Group.
It added that he returned to China after a brief stop in Hong Kong.
Alibaba did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The school, Yungu Education, on Monday said on its WeChat account that Ma had visited its premises and posted photographs as well as a video of the Alibaba founder at the school.
Ma also recently relinquished control over Ant Group, a Chinese fintech giant, in an overhaul that seeks to draw a line under a wider regulatory crackdown.