Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is in talks to acquire a stake in yet another media company. Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that Alibaba’s financial arm Ant Financial is in talks to invest in Caixin, a highly influential business and politics news media group. On Wednesday, Caixin said in a statement that it was close to raising funds from a number of “high-quality investors.”
Caixin to maintain its editorial independence
Led by Hu Shuli, Caixin said its original as well as new shareholders would recognize its editorial independence. It also possesses indices and data that could prove useful to Ant Financial’s wealth management services. The media group did not disclose how much it was seeking to raise. Alibaba founder Jack Ma is diversifying into media and entertainment businesses.
In the past few years, the Hangzhou-based company has invested in several media firms. Last year, the company picked up a 30% stake in the financial TV and newspaper company China Business News for $200 million. In December, it acquired Hong Kong’s influential English-language newspaper South China Morning Post (SCMP) for $266 million. The SCMP deal raised concerns about media independence in Hong Kong, given close ties between Alibaba and the Communist Party.
Caixin had criticized Jack Ma’s handling of Alipay transfer
The Ant Financial-Caixin deal would come at a time when the Community Party is trying to tighten its grip over domestic media. Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping asked Chinese media outlets to speak for the party and ensure its authority. Caixin is the same magazine that criticized Alibaba founder Jack Ma in 2011 over the way he handled the transfer of Alipay, which is now Ant Financial. Ma had not secured the approval of key shareholders Softbank and Yahoo for the transfer of Alipay.
China Media Capital is currently the largest shareholder of Caixin. Experts have compared Alibaba’s media foray to that of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who acquired the Washington Post in 2013.