Alibaba chairman Jack Ma to step down in 2019: company

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Alibaba founder and billionaire Jack Ma announced on Monday he would step down as the Chinese e-commerce giant's executive chairman next year and named the company CEO as his successor.

"Ma will continue as the executive chairman of the company over the next 12 months to ensure a smooth transition to Zhang", a statement from Alibaba said.

Ma, the wealthiest man in China, had earlier said he would be unveiling a succession plan, while hitting back at a New York Times report that said he was retiring.

The company said he will pass on the reins to trusted lieutenant Daniel Zhang.

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He relinquished the role of chief executive in 2013.

Mr. Zhang had previously served as Taobao's chief financial officer, president of and as Alibaba's chief operating officer before succeeding Jonathan Lu as chief executive.

"Teachers always want their students to exceed them, so the responsible thing to do for me and the company to do is to let younger, more talented people take over in leadership roles", Mr Ma said in a statement on the day of his 54th birthday.

The company, founded at a time when the industry was still dominated by state-owned firms and entrepreneurship was seen as a risky career path, has grown to have more than 66,000 full-time employees and a market value of some $420 billion.

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Ma said he will continue to be a member of the Alibaba Partnership and focus his new free time on philanthropy. He has also established a scholarship programme in Australia.

Alibaba is one of the world's most valuable companies - its shares almost doubled in value previous year.

Alibaba maintained robust revenue growth in the first half of 2018, but its profit margins have been squeezed by big-ticket investments as it battles to maintain pole position in payments and e-commerce.

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