Alibaba founder Jack Ma smells like orchids on Dutch horticultural tour

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Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Chinese group Alibaba, speaks in front of a photo of SoftBank’s human-like robot named “Pepper” at a press conference in Chiba, Japan on June 18, 2015. REUTERS / Yuya Shino

HONG KONG / AMSTERDAM, Oct.27 (Reuters) – Alibaba Group founder (9988.HK) Jack Ma, largely out of sight since criticizing China’s regulatory system last year, has scented orchids and refined his knowledge of horticulture during a surprise visit to the Netherlands, said a flower developer who met him.

The Chinese billionaire’s empire has come under intense official scrutiny after an October speech in Shanghai, accusing the regulatory system of stifling innovation, and the $ 37 billion IPO of its fintech subsidiary Ant Group was suspended.

Ma, once China’s most famous and outspoken entrepreneur,

had “kept a low profile” and focused on recreation and philanthropy, executive vice president and co-founder of Alibaba, Joe Tsai, told CNBC in June. Read more

He reappeared in Hong Kong in October, where he met at least “a few” associates over a meal, two sources told Reuters. Read more

He then flew to the Spanish island of Mallorca, where his luxury yacht is anchored, his first overseas trip since falling out with Chinese regulators, two Spanish newspapers reported last week. . Read more

Marco van Herk, commercial director of Dutch flower company Anthura, said on Wednesday that he expected to visit a group of Chinese business executives earlier this week.

“We were totally surprised when Jack Ma got out of the car,” Van Herk told Reuters. “He was very interested on a personal level. We talked about how they (the orchids) could smell good and look beautiful at the same time.”

Ma wanted to know all the details about growing flowers. “We also focus on ruggedness, which is quite in its back alley as you wonder how to offer packaging in-line to a factory, rather than out of a store.”

Ma visited several other business and research centers in the Netherlands, including the World Horti Center.

He was pictured in a baseball cap, wearing a white protective robe and holding flower pots, while in another photo he is seen in jeans and a hoodie.

The billionaire, who retired as chairman of Alibaba in 2019, will continue to visit European companies and research institutes involved in agricultural infrastructure and plant breeding, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Ma believed the combination of the technology he had researched with cloud computing, big data analytics and Alibaba’s artificial intelligence could help modernize Chinese agriculture, people familiar with the trip told SCMP. .

On September 1, photographs of Ma visiting greenhouses in eastern Zhejiang province, home to both Alibaba and Ant, went viral on Chinese social media.

The next day, Alibaba announced that it would invest 100 billion yuan ($ 15.5 billion) by 2025 to support “common prosperity”, becoming the latest corporate giant to pledge to support the wealth sharing initiative led by President Xi Jinping. Read more

“I don’t know if it will lead to business, but it was precious to have him here,” Van Herk said.

Reporting by Donny Kwok and Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Lincoln Feast and David Holmes

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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