Jack Ma appears to be expanding his media empire. The billionaire founder of Alibaba Holdings, the Chinese e-commerce giant, is reported to be interested in taking a stake in Caixin Media Group.
The independent news agency in Beijing publishes Caixin, one of China’s most respected business magazines. On Wednesday, the company said it would soon complete funding with several institutional investors, who have agreed not to violate Caixin’s editorial independence. Currently, Caixin’s biggest shareholder is China Media Capital. Tencent Holdings became an investor during its last round seeking funding.
“The latest attempt at raising funds has also attracted notable investors,” said Ma Ling, Caixin’s senior director of brand and communication in a written announcement, adding the investors will be disclosed when the funding is completed.
Two people close to Caixin said discussions were under way for Ant Financial, the banking and asset management affiliate of US-listed Alibaba, to buy an undisclosed holding in Caixin, reported the Financial Times.
In December, Ma bought the South China Morning Post for $266 million.
Although Alibaba has been given a seat on Caixin’s board, according to sources, the Financial Times said the investment would likely be scrutinized for any hint that Ma, who has majority control of Ant Financial, is trying to buy influence via Caixin, or offer political favors for China’s government.
Caixin was founded in 2010 by Hu Shuli, its chief editor and one of China’s most respected journalists. Hu had previously founded Caijing magazine in 1998 before leaving to start Caixin.
In addition to the South China Morning Post, Alibaba holds a stake in Watching, a news website launched last March. It’s also co-owner of iTianxia WebCommerce, a trade publication focused on online retail.
“In China, Caixin is widely read and held with respect among the ministries that make financial-related policies. This might give Alibaba at least some say over crucial financial policies,” Ge Jia, an influential tech blogger, told the Financial Times. “Though Alibaba might not manipulate Caixin, it will undoubtedly have some control: if it doesn’t make Caixin a footsoldier, at least it will ensure that they are not the enemy.”