Will he go or will he stay? Despite speculation at the weekend, Jack Ma looks set to remain as executive chairman of Alibaba, the online giant which strides across China’s tech sector landscape.

The co-founder of the e-commerce group was rumored to be on the verge of stepping down to concentrate on his charitable work.

But on Sunday, a spokesman for Alibaba denied he was ready to retire in the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Ma.

Instead, China’s most famous tech billionaire will “unveil a succession strategy” on Monday on his 54th birthday but remain as the company’s executive chairman for the foreseeable future.

On Friday, The New York Times reported in an interview with Ma that the former teacher turned tycoon planned to use his birthday to announce his retirement to focus on philanthropy.

The newspaper quoted Ma as saying the decision was “the beginning of an era.”

But an Alibaba spokesman told the SCMP that The New York Times’ story “was taken out of context, and [was] factually wrong.”

“An Alibaba spokesman said Ma remains the company’s executive chairman and will provide transition plans over a significant period of time,” the SCMP wrote.

The SCMP added that the succession strategy was part of a plan “for grooming a generation of younger executives to take over the reins” of the company.

Ma has always considered himself an accidental executive. Before helping to launch Alibaba more than 20 years ago, he was an English teacher.

Now, he is worth more than US$40 billion, with the online group valued at over $400 billion.

Still, in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday, he revealed that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, one of the world’s most prolific philanthropists.

“I’ve prepared a Jack Ma Foundation,” he said. “All these things that I’ve been preparing for 10 years.

“There’s a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates. I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier,” Ma added.

But, it appears, not on Monday.

– additional reporting AFP