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Alibaba to acquire South China Morning Post

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Alibaba to acquire South China Morning Post

Alibaba to acquire South China Morning Post
December 14
12:54 2015

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has signed a deal to buy the South China Morning Post and other media assets of SCMP Group for $266m, a deal that has raised a question over the outlook for its editorial independence.

In a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange, SCMP Group cited an “uncertain” future for traditional publishing as a key reason behind the sale.

It added that Alibaba would likely be able to “unlock greater value” from the business.

The all-cash purchase transfers control of the 112-year-old English language newspaper from Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok to Chinese billionaire Jack Ma at a time of increasing concern over Beijing’s control over China’s most free-wheeling city.

As Hong Kong’s leading English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post reports on issues and topics that are considered sensitive in mainland China, where the websites of several international media are blocked.

While Ma is known to be politically well-connected, others said the shift in ownership was not as drastic as some people were making out. Kuok has owned the broadsheet since 1993.

Alibaba’s Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai dismissed suggestions Alibaba would compromise the newspaper’s editorial independence in a letter to readers, but added the world needed “a plurality of views when it comes to China coverage”.

SCMP Group said it expected to record a gain of around $1.4 billion from the asset sale.

It said it plans to use the proceeds for the payment of a special cash dividend.

Alibaba has acquired or invested in a growing portfolio of media and content companies in recent years.

In June, the company agreed to pay $194m for an undisclosed stake in domestic financial media firm China Business News.

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