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Jack Ma says Alibaba resolved conflict with China regulator

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - 10:29
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Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. resolved its problems with China's State Administration Industry and Commerce "at the first stage," billionaire founder Jack Ma said during a speech in Hong Kong.

[HONG KONG] Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. resolved its problems with China's State Administration of Industry and Commerce "at the first stage," billionaire founder Jack Ma said during a speech in Hong Kong.

The SAIC's actions weren't supported by "certain government officials," Mr Ma said on Monday, without elaborating. Alibaba has 2,000 full-time employees to help monitor counterfeits and has helped send 400 people to prison for violations, he said.

"We looking for how we can communicate with the rest of the world," Mr Ma said. "We don't want to be misunderstood by the world that we are not transparent. We don't want to be misunderstood that Taobao is a platform for selling fake products." Mr Ma said he's "much more tired and frustrated than people think." He didn't elaborate.

The SAIC issued a "white paper" last week accusing Alibaba of allowing merchants to operate without required licenses, to run unauthorized stores that co-opt famous brands and to sell fake wine and handbags. Alibaba employees took bribes, and the company didn't fix flaws in customer feedback and internal credit-scoring systems, SAIC said.

Alibaba and the SAIC toned down the confrontation on Friday, when the Chinese consumer rights agency said a report criticising the e-commerce company didn't have "judicial effect." The statement came after Ma met SAIC chief Zhang Mao and promised to step up anti-piracy spending.

FAKE DEGREES

Mr Ma was asked after his speech about reports that fake university degrees were being sold on Alibaba's platform. The degrees were purported to be from Suwen University of Hong Kong, though no school by that name exists.

Mr Ma responded that it wasn't surprising to find fake diplomas on Alibaba's sites, and he emphasized that Alibaba is stepping up its monitoring efforts.

Alibaba shares rose 1.2 per cent to US$90.13 in New York on Monday.

Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group Co., the company's finance affiliate, will "definitely" have an initial public offering, Mr Ma said, adding that he hasn't given much thought to the timing or location of the IPO.

Mr Ma said he'd prefer if the company went public in Asia, and he would be open to listing in Hong Kong if regulators there welcome it. Alibaba's own plans for a Hong Kong IPO were derailed because the city wouldn't waive a ban on multiple share-class structures.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Alibaba plans to invest significantly in artificial intelligence, Mr Ma said, adding that robots present a great opportunity in the next 20 years.

Mr Ma was speaking at an event to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship among youth. Alibaba is creating a HK$1 billion (S$174 million) fund to provide startup capital to young Hong Kong entrepreneurs to strengthen economic ties between the former British colony and mainland China.

Mr Ma said he prefers to focus on people below the age of 40 with the fund, and that startups should also seek money from relatives, friends and not banks or government. Participation in Hong Kong's pro-democracy Occupy Central protests shouldn't disqualify applicants, he said.

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