HONG KONG – Chinese internet billionaire Jack Ma Yun has lowered his stake in Huayi Brothers, selling 3.1 million of his shares in the Chinese media and entertainment conglomerate. Ma, who was ranked 395th on the Forbes Millionaire List 2013 and has just retired from his position as CEO of the Nasdaq-listed online e-commerce empire Alibaba, earned $15.3 million (93.7 million yuan) from the June 3 transaction, according to a statement released by Huayi on Wednesday night.
Ma still possesses 30.2 million shares – or about a five percent stake – of the company. Having bought into Huayi in 2006, Ma owned eight percent of the company when it was first listed on the Shenzhen bourse in 2009.
Rumors of Ma’s plans to monetize his shares have rocked Huayi’s performance in the market, leading the company to suspend trading on June 4.
This latest episode follows the two transactions the company’s co-founder and president Wang Zhonglei conducted on May 24 and 27, in which he recouped $28.9 million (177 million yuan) by cashing in 5.74 million shares, according to statistics from the Shenzhen stock exchange. It's a move seen as contradicting what Wang's brother and Huayi CEO Wang Zhongjun pledged in April, when he said he is not considering selling his stake of the company.
Buoyed by recent box office successes of Jackie Chan’s CZ12 and Stephen Chow’s Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, Huayi’s shares have enjoyed an upward surge in pricing for the past month, rising by 16 percent in May alone. Ma sold his shares at $4.94 (30.32 yuan) each.
But the past year hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the company: share prices hit a low late last year, reaching $1.98 (12.15 yuan) on Dec 3, after Feng Xiaogang’s Back to 1942 opened to lukewarm reviews and underperformed at the Chinese box office. The historical epic grossed $59.8 million (366.9 million yuan) at the box office. The company is believed to have taken an overall loss on the project, given that its production budget was reported at $34.2 million (210 million yuan) alone.
Ma's Alibaba, a marketing and e-commerce giant in China, is valued at more than $55 billion and the company is believed to be preparing for an IPO later this year.
In April, Alibaba acquired a minority stake in Sina Weibo, the wildly popular micro-blog service known in the West as China's Twitter. Alibaba paid $586 million for 18 percent of Sina Weibo and has the right to raise its stake to 30 percent at a later date
Last May, Alibaba bought back roughly half of a 40 percent stake Yahoo was holding in the company. Yahoo’s remaining stake in Alibaba is viewed by analysts as one of its most valuable assets.