Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has resurfaced with a rare public statement, penning a lengthy memo to employees in which he praised the Chinese technology giant's recent reorganization and transformations amid a tumultuous year. The billionaire's morale-boosting post, made on an internal company forum, comes as Alibaba faces increasing competition, regulatory pressures, and a challenging business environment.

In the memo, roughly a page long, Ma expressed his support for the leadership of CEO Eddie Wu and Chairman Joe Tsai, highlighting the company's decision to split into six divisions as the biggest shake-up in its 25-year history. He noted that the restructuring had helped streamline decision-making, making Alibaba more agile and customer-focused.

"Over the past year, amid external and internal doubt and pressures, I have witnessed the birth of a strong and courageous Alibaba team," Ma wrote in the internal memo, a translated version of which was seen by CNBC. The post, Ma's longest on the company's intranet in five years, was verified by a source who had viewed it on Alibaba's internal platform.

The founder's re-emergence comes at a critical time for Alibaba, as the company has faced a series of challenges, including losing ground in e-commerce to low-cost rivals such as PDD Holdings and ByteDance-owned Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. Alibaba has also undergone sweeping management changes, with long-time CEO Daniel Zhang unexpectedly stepping down and being replaced by veteran Eddie Yongming Wu.

Ma's public statement has had an immediate impact on Alibaba's shares, with the company's Hong Kong-listed shares surging 5% following the post, while its U.S.-listed shares were around 2% higher in pre-market trade.

Jacob Cooke, CEO of e-commerce consultancy WPIC Marketing + Technologies, believes the letter was aimed at "restoring internal and external confidence in Alibaba's leadership" given that "the chorus of negative voices seems to have risen in 2024." Alibaba's shares have declined 27% in the past 12 months, giving it a market capitalization of some $178 billion, while rival PDD, which briefly overtook Alibaba in terms of market value last December, is not far behind with $160 billion.

In his memo, Ma also acknowledged that Alibaba had made many mistakes in the past, stating, "We must not only have the courage to admit and correct yesterday's problems in a timely manner but also make reforms for the future." He emphasized the importance of thinking about what e-commerce will look like in three years' time, particularly with the arrival of artificial intelligence.

Ma's public criticism of Chinese regulators in a speech in October 2020 had led to the derailing of the massive listing of his fintech company Ant Group and sparked a regulatory crackdown on the Chinese tech sector. The billionaire had largely withdrawn from public life since then, spending much of his time abroad, especially in Japan, where he is a visiting professor at Tokyo College, a research institute run by the University of Tokyo.