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Is SoftBank pulling the plug on Alibaba?

TOKYO – If Masayoshi Son is about to sell his massive stake in Alibaba Group, does it say more about the fortunes of his SoftBank Group or the Chinese e-commerce giant Jack Ma founded?

This is the burning question as markets gyrate on reports that Son, Ma’s most important early investor, might cut his losses.

Alibaba shares plunged Monday after analysts at Citigroup connected the dots concerning its registration of big additional blocks of American depositary receipt shares.

Son owns roughly 25% of Alibaba, a company battered and bruised more than most after 15 months of tech industry crackdowns launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Because Son invested in Alibaba before it listed in New York, much of his stake is probably not registered as ADRs. The step would thus exact additional damage on Alibaba’s share prices.