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Alibaba: Alibyebye?

January 17, 2013

Too old for the internet?
?FELLOW Aliren,? begins the memo sent on January 15th by Jack Ma, the boss of Alibaba, using his pet name for his staff. ?The internet belongs to young people?at 48, I am no longer ?young? for the internet business.? With those words Mr Ma, the founder and chief executive of China?s biggest e-commerce firm, announced he would step aside in May.Alizila, the firm?s official newsletter, declared that the news was ?bound to send a shock through the e-commerce industry.? Indeed it has. Some worry about Mr Ma?s health, though he shows no sign of illness. Others suspect a greater financial game is under way, and expect more surprises. All are puzzling over the timing of this, coming ahead of the firm?s keenly awaited flotation.Alibaba is privately held, and will not comment on when a public placement might happen. However, a deal struck last year to buy back half the 40% stake in the firm owned by Yahoo!, an American internet-search giant, gives powerful financial incentives for it to do so before the end of 2015.A charitable view is that a fellow internet tycoon,...

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