By Tracy Qu

Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma praised the company's top leadership and the ongoing restructuring exercise in a memo to employees, a rare move for the billionaire since stepping away from the spotlight in recent years.

"Not only must we have the courage to admit and correct yesterday's mistakes in a timely manner, but we must also reform for future. This is why we keep moving forward," according to a copy of the internal letter seen by The Wall Street Journal and verified by two sources who viewed it on Alibaba's internal portal.

Ma praised Chairman Joe Tsai and Chief Executive Eddie Wu for their leadership and said in the letter posted Wednesday morning that this year's core focus wasn't to chase performance indicators but to "know ourselves and go back to the track focusing on consumers."

In March last year, Alibaba announced a restructuring that would split the group into six independently run companies, effectively dismantling a business empire built by Ma over two decades.

The businesses were split into cloud computing, Chinese e-commerce, global e-commerce, digital mapping and food delivery, logistics, and media and entertainment.

Alibaba has stepped back some of its restructuring plans, including abandoning plans in March to list logistics arm Cainiao. The company also shelved a cloud-computing spinoff.

"This path of reform and innovation has never been accompanied by applause, because what we are changing are the bad habits we love the most and what we are reforming is our vested interest," according to Ma's post.

Once a darling of Wall Street, Alibaba has been grappling with sluggish growth as it faces a cooling Chinese economy and rising competition from homegrown upstarts such as PDD Holdings' Pinduoduo e-commerce platform and ByteDance's short-video app Douyin.

Ma himself has been keeping a low profile since late 2020 when financial affiliate Ant Group called off initial public offerings in Hong Kong and Shanghai that had been on track to raise more than $34 billion. Alibaba's scale had put it in the crosshairs of Chinese regulators, which started cracking down on the internet sector's freewheeling expansion.

Alibaba shares closed 4.9% higher at 73.95 Hong Kong dollars (US$9.44) on Wednesday.

Write to Tracy Qu at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-10-24 0438ET