HONG KONG: Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is in talks to buy a stake in the publisher of Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper, a source familiar with the potential deal has confirmed.
The deal would involve the media assets of the Hong Kong-listed SCMP Group, including the English-language newspaper, the source familiar with the matter told Agence France-Presse.
“The negotiations center around the media assets,” the source said.
He added that the deal is “on Alibaba level,” clarifying earlier reports that said the company’s founder Jack Ma could be personally interested in the investment.
Both Alibaba and SCMP declined to comment when contacted by Agence France-Presse.
The SCMP Group issued a statement to the city’s bourse Thursday confirming talks on the possible sale of its media assets, but without confirming the potential buyer.
“The Board confirms that the Company has received a preliminary approach from a third party regarding its interest in a possible purchase of the Company’s media assets,” it said in a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
“Consideration of such proposal is at a very early stage and the terms of any potential transaction remain subject to discussion and to regulatory review. “
In an internal memo published to SCMP staff on Wednesday, seen by Agence France-Presse, the firm’s CEO Robin Hu said the deal could involve the SCMP newspaper, magazines, outdoor media, custom publishing and the events businesses.
If the deal goes ahead, Alibaba founder Jack Ma would become the latest Internet tycoon to step in to take over a traditional newspaper.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013, while Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, bought a majority stake in the New Republic magazine in 2012.
The SCMP, founded in 1903 and the city’s main English-language paper, was once the world’s most profitable newspaper on a per reader basis.
But it has seen an increasing number of readers moving online.
The paper has been controlled since 1993 by Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok, who acquired it from Rupert Murdoch.