Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma made his first appearance since October today when he spoke to a group of teachers by video.

His appearance eased concern about his unusual absence from public life and sent shares in the e-commerce giant surging. 

Speculation over Ma's whereabouts has swirled in the wake of news this month that he was replaced in the final episode of a reality TV show he had been a judge on.

This came amid a regulatory clampdown by Beijing on his sprawling business empire. 

The billionaire, who commands a cult-like reverence in China, had not appeared in public since October 24, when he blasted China's regulatory system in a speech at a Shanghai forum. 

That set him on a collision course with officials and led to the suspension of a blockbuster $37 billion IPO for Alibaba's financial affiliate Ant Group. 

Until then Ma often appeared in public, speaking at conferences and other events, though less frequently than in 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Alibaba and his charitable foundation both confirmed he participated in an online ceremony for an annual event for rural teachers earlier today. 

In the 50-second video, Ma spoke from a room with grey walls, a large painting and floral arrangements. It was not clear where the room was. 

Alibaba's Hong Kong-listed shares jumped over 10% on the news, which was first reported by Tianmu News, a media outlet backed by the government of Zhejiang, the province where Alibaba's headquarters are based. 

"Jack Ma's reappearance has given investors peace of mind after a lot of rumours, allowing them to pile into the stock which had been a laggard in the market," said Steven Leung, sales director at brokerage UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong. 

Although Ma has stepped down from corporate positions and earnings calls, he retains significant influence over Alibaba and Ant and promotes them globally at business and political events. 

He also continues to mentor management talent in the "Alibaba Partnership", a 35-member group of company managers. 

China has stepped up a regulatory crackdown on anticompetitive behaviour in the internet sector and Alibaba became the target of a competition investigation launched last month by Chinese authorities. 

The company plans to raise at least $5 billion through the sale of a US dollar-denominated bond this month.