Alibaba founder Jack Ma Yun on Monday promised to consider listing the company in Hong Kong and increasing investment in the city.
Ma was responding to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s invitation at the inauguration ceremony of the Hong Kong Association of Zhejiang Entrepreneurs on Monday.
The executive chairman of the e-commerce giant, who is also the chairman of the General Association of Zhejiang Entrepreneurs, engaged in a fireside discussion with Lam during the ceremony, where Ma praised Lam for possessing great leadership for offering the invitation.
“A mere politician will never dare to say so,” Ma said. “Alibaba will take this message. We will definitely consider Hong Kong’s market.
“We hope we can further invest in Hong Kong and enhance our participation in the city’s economy.”
Lam’s invitation came after the passing of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing’s proposal to allow companies offering different classes of shares with different voting power to list in the city.
“Now I hope Alibaba can come back to list in Hong Kong,” Lam said.
She said the stock exchange had decided to start allowing the dual-class share system in midyear, and described allowing the system as a form of economic innovation.
She said the move would encourage more companies to list in the city.
The passing of the system follows local authorities’ rejection of a plan by Alibaba in 2014 to adopt a structure that would allow Ma to appoint more than half of the company’s board.
Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post, eventually listed in New York, which allows dual-class share structures, while Hong Kong has banned these since the mid-1980s.
During the ceremony, Ma said he first met Lam in the chief executive’s office and talked with her for about 20 minutes, during which time they discussed the rejection, as well as how to encourage young start-ups.
“I believe the passing of the dual-class share system will bring great changes and will help Hong Kong greatly in its future reforms,” he said. “I have never been as confident in Hong Kong as today.”
Ma said there were many young talented people in Hong Kong and he urged them to find more opportunities on the mainland.
Lam said she believed the city could nurture entrepreneurs like Ma and invited Ma to share his innovation experiences with local young people.
Ma and Lam have met each other more than once before.
In August, Ma met Lam at Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province. During the meeting, Ma offered to play a bigger role in helping Hong Kong develop a “more fashionable”, cashless society, by taking advantage of Alibaba’s growing data clouding and e-payment systems.
In November in Hong Kong, at the grand finale of Alibaba’s start-up competition, Jumpstarter 2017, the pair chatted about how Hong Kong could attract technology talents from the outside and how local talent can take advantage of opportunities elsewhere.
In her first policy address in October, Lam said she would lead a new high-level interdepartmental steering committee on innovation and technology, and emphasised the importance of Hong Kong becoming a “smart city” to maintain its global competitiveness.