A man with the surname ‘Ma’ was detained in China, which led to losses of billions of dollars for Jack Ma’s Alibaba. The company’s shares plummeted 20 per cent within minutes of the report surfacing.
With the sudden fall in stock prices, $26 billion were wiped off Alibaba’s market value.
What triggered panic was that the individual surnamed ‘Ma’ was detained in the city of Hangzhou – where Alibaba is based – on national security grounds.
According to CNN, the man was placed under “compulsory measures” on April 25 on suspicion of “colluding with overseas anti-China hostile forces” to “incite secession” and “incite subversion of state power”.
The one-sentence news report spread like wildfire across China. Hu Xijin, the former editor-in-chief of the state-owned nationalist tabloid the Global Times, quickly moved to issue a clarification on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo. He said that Jack Ma’s Chinese name Ma Yun has two characters, whereas the man who has been detained has three characters in his name, according to CNN report.
The police later issued a statement clarifying the man that the man detained worked in the information technology sector and is 20 years younger than Jack Ma, as per Fox News.
The statement helped Alibaba recover some of their losses.
Financial analyst Willer Chen later told Bloomberg that investors’ reaction to the news “shows the relatively weak sentiment in the tech space”.
Jack Ma’s rise is a spectacular rags to riches story, but equally shocking is the turn in public sentiment against him. Then, tech giants fell under the crosshairs of the Chinese government and Jack Ma too faced scrutiny after a controversial speech two years ago.
The Alibaba founder has mostly faded from public life and kept a low profile since late 2020.