Japanese ownership ruffles feathers

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Angry Chinese nationalists finally woke up yesterday to the fact that Japanese and US companies own more than half of e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba, and have done for years.

“Who is Jack Ma working for?” asked some on microblogs, hours after Alibaba Group Holding filed a prospectus for an initial public offering (IPO) of its shares in the US, which some say could be the biggest listing of a technology stock.

Ma was the lead founder of Alibaba in 1999 and has become something of a cult hero to entrepreneurs and many ordinary Chinese, saying he champions small business against industry giants.

“Jack Ma is a big traitor,” wrote another user on Tencent Weibo, a major Twitter-like Chinese microblogging site.

In its IPO prospectus, Alibaba detailed ties with its two principal shareholders: Japanese telecoms firm SoftBank, which owns a 34.4 percent stake, and Yahoo, with 22.6 percent.

SoftBank invested in Alibaba 14 years ago, and Yahoo bought a 40 percent stake in 2005. Both holdings have long been public knowledge and have been covered in previous disclosures.

Yet this old information triggered a clamour of dismay and indignation among some anti-Japanese internet users in China yesterday, who also noted that Ma was only the third-biggest shareholder in Alibaba, with 8.9 percent. – Reuters

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