Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴) founder Jack Ma (馬雲), who helped launch China’s online retailing boom, yesterday stepped down as chairman of the world’s biggest e-commerce company at a time when its fast-changing industry faces uncertainty amid a US-Chinese trade dispute.
Ma, one of China’s wealthiest and best-known entrepreneurs, gave up his post on his 55th birthday as part of a succession announced a year ago.
He is to stay on as a member of the Alibaba Partnership, a 36-member group with the right to nominate a majority of the company’s board of directors.
Ma, a former English teacher, founded Alibaba in 1999 to connect Chinese exporters to US retailers.
The company has shifted focus to serving China’s growing consumer market and expanded into online banking, entertainment and cloud computing. Domestic businesses accounted for 66 percent of its US$16.7 billion in revenue in the quarter ending in June.
Chinese retailing faces uncertainty amid a trade dispute that has raised the cost of US imports.
Growth in online sales decelerated to 17.8 percent in the first half of this year amid slowing Chinese economic growth, down from last year’s full-year rate of 23.9 percent.
Alibaba said that its revenue rose 42 percent year-on-year in the quarter ending in June to US$16.7 billion and profit rose 145 percent to US$3.1 billion. Still, that was off slightly from last year’s full-year revenue growth of 51 percent.
The total amount of goods sold across Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms rose 25 percent last year to US$853 billion. By comparison, the biggest US e-commerce company, Amazon.com Inc, reported total sales of US$277 billion.
Alibaba is one of a group of companies — including Tencent Holding Ltd (騰訊), search engine Baidu.com Inc (百度) and e-commerce rival JD.com Inc (京東) — that have revolutionized shopping, entertainment and consumer services in China.
Alibaba was founded at a time when few Chinese were online. As Internet use spread, the company expanded into consumer-focused retailing and services. Few Chinese used credit cards, so Alibaba created the Alipay (支付寶) online payments system.
The company’s US$25 billion initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in September 2014 was the biggest to date by a Chinese company.
The Hurun Report, which follows China’s wealth, estimates Ma’s fortune at US$38 billion.
In 2015, Ma bought Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.
Ma’s successor as chairman is CEO Daniel Zhang (張勇), a former accountant and 12-year veteran of Alibaba. He was previously president of its consumer-focused Tmall.com (天貓) business unit.
Ma faced controversy when it was disclosed in 2011 that Alibaba transferred control over Alipay to a company he controlled without immediately informing shareholders, including Yahoo Inc and Japan’s Softbank Group Corp.
Alibaba said that the move was required to comply with Chinese regulations, but some financial analysts said that the company was paid too little for a valuable asset. The dispute was later resolved by Alibaba, Yahoo and Softbank.
Corporate governance specialists have questioned the Alibaba Partnership, which gives Ma and a group of executives more control over the company than shareholders.
Ma has said that it ensures Alibaba focuses on long-term development instead of responding to pressure from financial markets.
DEVELOPING TALENT: The electronics contractor is looking to recruit people to work in core tech fields and emerging industries like electric cars and robotics Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), the world’s largest contract electronics maker, has launched a recruitment drive, offering a monthly salary of no less than NT$45,000 (US$1,485) to university graduates. For those with a master’s degree, the starting pay would be NT$52,000 per month at the minimum, while doctorate degree holders would receive at least NT$60,000 a month, Hon Hai said a statement issued early this week. The latest recruitment drive is aimed at attracting talent in core technology fields — artificial intelligence, semiconductors and next-generation mobile communications — and emerging industries — electric vehicles, digital healthcare and robotics, the
NEW CONSIDERATIONS: An airline manager said the idea is tempting, as demand for air cargo is strong, but issues such as training loaders would need to be addressed Taiwanese airlines might repurpose passenger jets to carry cargo in their cabins to offset lost revenue amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Airlines are considering applying to the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) for permission to transport cargo in passenger cabins after StarLux Airlines Co (星宇航空) last month became the first among the nation’s airlines to offer cargo-only flights using the normal cargo holds of its three Airbus SE A321neo passenger jets. “We are considering whether to increase our capacity by putting cargo on passenger seats,” Starlux spokesman Nieh Kuo-wei (聶國維) told the Taipei Times by telephone. “The advantage is that we can improve revenue,
GLOBAL CUTS: CEO Warren East said the firm’s focus was on strengthening financial resilience, so it would likely reduce salary costs by at least 10% this year Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC is scrapping its targets and final dividend to shore up its finances as the British aero-engine maker’s customers around the world ground planes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rolls-Royce, one of Britain’s most historic industrial names, which before the pandemic struck was trying to emerge from a multiyear turnaround plan, has suspended its dividend for the first time since 1987. The company’s engines power Airbus SE and Boeing Co’s widebody jets, but more than 60 percent of that fleet is now grounded, according to aviation data provider Cirium. Rolls-Royce is paid by airlines based on how many hours they fly. Over
PAINFUL CONTRACTION: Passenger loads in February on flights between Taiwan and China, Hong Kong and Macau fell by more than 90 percent compared with December Even with more than NT$450 billion (US$14.85 billion) in financial aid from the Executive Yuan’s expanded relief package, local tourism-related businesses are unlikely to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic any time soon, a central bank report released last month said. The NT$1.05 trillion relief package includes NT$472 billion in financial assistance for tourism and transportation sectors, such as airlines, hotels, travel agencies, taxis and tour buses. However, a March 20 central bank report said that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global and domestic economies are far greater than that of the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic, despite any benefits from delayed purchases