Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Chinese ecommerce group Alibaba, is poised to expand his media holdings as his online finance company eyes a stake in Caixin, the business magazine.
Two people close to Caixin said discussions were under way for Ant Financial, the payments, banking and asset management affiliate of US-listed Alibaba, to buy an undisclosed holding.
If successful it would be the second recent media investment by Mr Ma’s companies, following Alibaba’s December purchase of South China Morning Post for $266m.
Caixin said yesterday it was poised to complete talks with a group of unnamed investors. The stake sale would not interfere with its independence, it added.
“The new stakeholders will respect Caixin’s editorial independence, as our past stakeholders have done, and accept our internal firewall and compliance management arrangements, which will safeguard our credibility.”
Caixin said a funding round in 2012 — when Tencent, a rival of Alibaba’s, and China Media Capital, a Shanghai-based fund, took stakes — had not affected its commitment to objectivity.
财新传媒指出，2012年进行的一轮融资——当时阿里巴巴的竞争对手腾讯(Tencent)和总部位于上海的华人文化产业投资基金(China Media Capital)购得股份——并没有影响其对客观性的承诺。
According to a person close to the talks, Alibaba has been given a seat on Caixin’s board. Ant Financial declined to comment.
The investment is likely to be scrutinised for any hint that Mr Ma, who has majority control of Ant Financial, is trying to buy influence or offer political favours for the Chinese government.
In last year’s purchase of South China Morning Post, Alibaba was accused of seeking to interfere editorially after Joe Tsai, its executive vice-chairman, said the newspaper could be an alternative to western coverage of China, which he described as negative and biased.
Caixin’s fierce independence is attributed to Hu Shuli, its chief editor and one of China’s most respected journalists, who founded the magazine in 1998. In 2011 she had an online argument with Mr Ma after he was accused of breaching corporate governance rules.
Alibaba and its affiliates have moved aggressively into the media sector. Alibaba is also an investor in Watching, a news website launched last March, and Seec Media . It co-owns iTianxia Web-Commerce, a trade publication focused on online retail.
阿里巴巴及其附属公司近来大举进军媒体行业。阿里巴巴还是去年3月开通的新闻网站“无界新闻”(Watching)、以及财讯传媒(Seec Media)的投资者。该集团还部分拥有聚焦网上零售的行业刊物《iTianxia WebCommerce》。
Ant Financial is being prepared for an initial public offering in China, though the company refuses to say when.