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Its customers use its e-commerce platforms to order products that a year ago led to package reaching 55-million a day.

Ma was born into a poor family in the city of Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province. The Hangzhou-based company, which began as an e-commerce marketplace founded with US$60,000, has taken less than two decades to expand into a US$420 billion juggernaut in online shopping, cashless payments, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and even Hollywood movies.

Porter Erisman, a former Alibaba employee who made a documentary about the firm, "Crocodile in the Yangtze", said: "What Silicon Valley is known for, he embodies a lot of that with Chinese characteristics - that spirit of openness, risk-taking, innovation".

Mr. Ma will disclose his plans on Monday, when he turns 54, the person said. Ma stepped down as Alibaba's chief executive in 2013, but remained executive chairman.

But in an interview with Bloomberg TV broadcast on Friday, Ma indicated that he had plans to soon retire and that he wanted to follow Microsoft founder Bill Gates as one of the world's most prolific philanthropists.

"He's a symbol of the health of China's private sector and how high they can fly whether he likes it or not", Duncan Clark, author of the book "Alibaba: The House Jack Ma Built", said of Ma.

"I am very thankful for Australia and the time I spent there in my youth", Ma said during his visit.

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Alibaba set up an an Australian headquarters in Melbourne in 2017, headed by Maggie Zhou, to make it easier for local business to sell into China.

As he prepares to leave the company, Ma is among China's richest men with a net worth estimated by Forbes at $38.6 billion.

After being knocked back by USA venture capitalists in 1999, cash-strapped Chinese entrepreneur Ma persuaded friends to give him $60,000 to start an e-commerce firm called Alibaba. According to the paper current CEO Daniel Zhang is a "candidate" to replace Ma, who plans to pursue philanthropy in education.

As Beijing has increased its involvement in the private sector, Ma has shifted what he has said about China's government.

Alibaba group founder and CEO, Jack Ma.

In 2014, he created the Jack Ma Foundation, which has worked to improve education in rural China. However, in contrast to the American magnate, he wants to "retire earlier".