Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma is no longer the wealthiest person in China. According to the latest updates from the Shanghai-based Hurun Report, while Ma had his family fortune rise by around 22%, he has not even made it into the top three.
A Wall Street Journal report says that bottled-water tycoon Zhong Shanshan now leads the ranking with an estimated net worth of $85 billion. Tencent Holdings Ltd. founder Pony Ma and Pinduoduo Inc. founder Colin Huang follow in second and third place respectively.
It has been a tough few months for Ma. In November 2020, Ant, an affiliate company of the Alibaba Group was forced to cancel its IPO - a move that reports suggest may have had the personal involvement of President Xi Jinping. And at the end of December last year, China's top market watchdog had started an investigation into alleged anti-competition practices by the ecommerce giant.
Soon, Ma was under regulatory scrutiny and appeared to vanish from public view for over two months, prompting intense speculation about the future of the billionaire and his Alibaba Group. In the meantime, China’s Central Bank asked Ant Group to shake up it's lending along with other consumer finance operations, and blasted the online financial giant for sub-par corporate governance, disdain toward regulatory requirements, and engaging in regulatory arbitrage.
In mid-January, it was reported that the company's valuation may fall significantly - become worth less than 700 billion yuan if draft proposals to help China curb market concentration in the online payments market are implemented. Then, at the end of January came news that the Ant Group was mulling ways to restructure itself as a financial holding company overseen by China's central bank.
Now however, the situation appears to be improving. At the end of February, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping even appeared praise Alibaba (along with many other companies) for their role in wiping out extreme poverty in the country.