Alibaba’s Jack Ma seems to have decided that name-calling was the best response to a critical report by a Chinese regulator this week, and the resulting fallout helped rival billionaire Wang Jianlin, return to his former perch as China’s richest man.
Wang, who controls property development conglomerate Dalian Wanda, was also helped by a surge in shares of his Wanda Cinema Line on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange
Ma, who has a history of making bold statements, got into a war of words on Wednesday with China’s State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC) after the government agency published a report that found that as much as 60 percent of the merchandise sold on his Taobao platform was fake or substandard.
By the end of Friday, Alibaba’s stock had slid more than eleven percent.
Wang Jianlin’s Fortune Jumps to $28.1 Billion
Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin, had been pushed out of his position as China’s richest man on Forbes’ Rich List last October down to the fourth position after Alibaba’s IPO moved Ma into the top spot with a fortune then estimated at $19.5 billion. Slots two and three on Forbes’ list were taken by online moguls Pony Ma of Tencent and Robin Li of Baidu, both of whom saw their stocks soar last year.
However, Alibaba’s stock slide this week appears to have lost Ma a billion or two.
Wang, on the other hand has seen his fortune grow after the $3.7 billion Hong Kong IPO of his Wanda Commercial Properties in December. The former army officer’s wealth also benefitted from a 44 percent surge in shares of his Wanda Cinema Line after it debuted on the Shenzhen stock exchange on January 21st.
According to estimates by the Wall Street Journal, Wang’s worth is now up to $28.1 billion. When Forbes’ survey was published in October the property magnate was said to only have $13.2 billion to his name.
Ma Hurt By SAIC Accusations
It seems that Ma’s feelings may have been hurt by the SAIC ecommerce report that found fakery on Taobao, as the company quickly responded by publishing an open letter on its official Weibo account accusing SAIC director Liu Hongliang – by name – of setting up an unfair survey.
Although the company later deleted the post, it soon issued a new statement implying that the SAIC’s supervision was selective and malicious, and accusing Liu of procedural misconduct.
At the same time that Alibaba’s tiff was escalating, the company issued its latest financial reports, which showed revenue growth tapering off significantly from last quarter, and falling well short of analysts’ expectations. The ecommerce giant’s stock closed at $89.08 per share on Friday, down from $100.39 per share at the start of the day on Wednesday, before the SAIC report was released.
The war of words, combined with poorer than expected sales, were enough to move China’s richest property developer back into the top spot as the country’s richest billionaire.