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Billionaire Alibaba founder Jack Ma launches new food business, 'Ma's Kitchen'

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Jack Ma, founder of E-commerce giant Alibaba, is shifting his focus to pre-packaged food and agricultural products with his latest venture, "Ma's Kitchen."

Back in business: Last week, the 59-year-old billionaire officially set up "Hangzhou Ma's Kitchen Food," a startup with a registered capital of 10 million yuan ($1.4 million). While details on the business model remain undisclosed, records from China's National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System reveal a focus on pre-packaged food, imports, exports and edible agricultural products.

An unexpected pivot: Ma, whose previous comments critical of China's financial system had led to regulatory scrutiny, notably withdrew from the public eye in 2020 amidst a government-led crackdown on the companies he founded, Alibaba and Ant Group. Ant's IPO was suspended, and Alibaba faced a hefty fine.

His recent foray into the food industry suggests a strategic pivot. Ma's Kitchen adds to a series of ventures in agriculture and education in the country, aligning well with the Communist Party's "common prosperity" initiative.

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What’s cooking: With China's ready meals market reaching 71.1 billion yuan ($9.9 billion) in 2022, some analysts view Ma's entry into the pre-packaged food space as a step in the right direction.

In an interview with CNN, Ben Cavender of China Market Research Group highlighted the potential for innovation in the sector, citing changing consumer habits during the pandemic and an economic slowdown in China.

Busy billionaire: Ma, who co-founded Alibaba in 1999, relinquished his executive chairmanship role in 2019. He then went on to spend the succeeding years focusing on philanthropy and agricultural projects. Last week, he made headlines after deferring plans to sell Alibaba shares worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

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