Alibaba has agreed to buy South China Morning Post, an English-language newspaper in Hong Kong. This will allow the e-commerce giant to deepen its reach into the media space beyond its current domestic Chinese media and film assets.
It will also give Alibaba control of a media group that focuses heavily on China coverage for an international audience and will allow it to promote wider views of China's rise as a global economic power, Alibaba said.
Joseph Tsai, Alibaba's executive vice-chairman said, "We think the world needs a plurality of views when it comes to China coverage. China's rise as an economic power and its importance to world stability is too important for there to be a singular thesis." He added that the content that is currently chargeable would be made free post the acquisition.
The deal is also in line with the e-commerce giant's global growth strategy as the newspaper is well known in Southeast Asia, where it is trying to grow.
Apart from the newspaper, the Hangzhou-headquartered company said it will acquire other media assets of the SCMP Group that is controlled by Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok.
This is not the company's first acquisition this quarter. The Alibaba Group in November had said that it will buy the rest of Youku Tudou, China's version of YouTube, in an all-cash deal.
About the newspaper
South China Morning Post is currently owned by SCMP Group Ltd.
While this group has a history of critical reporting, in recent years the tone has softened. It has, however, expanded coverage on the world's second largest economy and has even launched an international edition in an effort to become an important global voice in the coverage of China.
SCMP Group's annual revenue topped $129m (£84.8m, €117.3m) for three straight years to 2014, according to company filings.
David Schlesinger, the Hong Kong-based managing director of media consultant Tripod Advisors was of the opinion that the newspaper will lose its credibility if Alibaba imposes restrictions on SCMP's reporting and makes it difficult to report on Chinese politics and certain Chinese companies.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association too expressed its concerns with this M&A deal. They said that the deal could affect freedom of the press in the city.
In contradiction, Tsai said, "Some have suggested that ownership by Alibaba will compromise the SCMP's editorial independence. This criticism reflects a bias of its own, as if to say newspaper owners must espouse certain views, while those that hold opposing views are 'unfit'".