Despite the social media speculation over Mr Ma’s whereabouts, investors in Ant and his e-commerce empire Alibaba are said to be relieved over the 56-year-old’s decision to pause his regular speeches and television appearances following the regulatory crackdown.

One insider likened Mr Ma’s current period of silence to a similar incident in 2015 when the executive was forced to issue a public apology for “crazy” and “stupid” comments he made about Chinese e-commerce rival

At the time, he took to Chinese social media site Weibo to make amends after calling a “tragedy”. Mr Ma wrote: “I’m deeply sorry for the senseless troubles caused.”

Abishur Prakash of consultancy Center for Innovating the Future said: “Jack Ma is likely taking time away from the spotlight to gauge his options. 

“With the Chinese government going after large technology firms, Mr Ma is in a challenging situation. But remember, Jack Ma is more than just an individual. His name has become a brand that represents the ‘new China’, Now, with his firms under fire, silence may be the most strategic choice.”

An Alibaba spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Shares closed down 2.1pc in Hong Kong and were 3pc lower in New York.