Jack Ma Alibaba
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  • Alibaba founder Jack Ma has traveled out of China for the first time in a year, according to Hong Kong media.
  • Ma is reportedly in Spain where he will embark on a study tour on agriculture and technology related to environmental issues.
  • Ma's tech empire has come under intense scrutiny since he criticized the Chinese regulatory system last October.

Alibaba Group Holding founder Jack Ma has made his first trip out of China in over a year, according to several Hong Kong media sources, including South China Morning Post and East Week.

The Chinese billionaire was last seen in Hong Kong, where he met with business associates last week, Reuters reported.

Ma is now in Spain to learn about agriculture and technology related to environmental issues, the South China Morning Post reported, citing an unnamed source familiar with Ma's schedule. The SCMP is owned by Alibaba.

Hong Kong magazine East Week reported Ma flew to Spain on his private jet on Saturday.

Ma's recent whereabouts have been the subject of intense speculation. The outspoken teacher-turned-tech titan was once a high-profile jetsetter, who spent around a third of his time traveling abroad in 2018, according to SCMP.

But Ma has been laying low since last October when he gave a speech criticizing China's financial regulatory system. Ma's words angered the Chinese authorities, prompting intense regulatory scrutiny on his businesses.

Alibaba's fintech spin-off Ant Group, for example, has had its mega IPO - most recently valued at $35 billion -suspended since last November. And in December, Chinese regulators launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba that resulted in a $2.8 billion fine.

Ma also disappeared from public view for two months before reappearing in a video conference in late January.

Alibaba did not immediately respond to Insider's query about Ma's reported trip to Europe, but told the SCMP that Ma is no longer involved in the company's operations. He retired as Alibaba's chairman in 2019.

Alibaba shares in Hong Kong are popping on Wednesday, gaining as much as 9% by midday.

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