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Alibaba's co-founder says no plans to sell South China Morning Post

Alibaba's co-founder says no plans to sell South China Morning Post
A man walks past a logo of Alibaba Group at its office building in Beijing, China on Aug 9, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters file

Alibaba has no plans to sell Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, the e-commerce giant's co-founder Joe Tsai was quoted as saying in a letter to South China Morning Post staff seen by Reuters, following a Bloomberg News report that a Chinese government-owned firm was weighing up an offer to buy the paper.

South China Morning Post's CEO Gary Liu said in the letter that Joe Tsai, Alibaba's co-founder and South China Morning Post's chairman, had asked him to pass on a message that there were no plans for a change in ownership.

"There has never been any discussion about South China Morning Post's ownership, and Alibaba has no plans for any change. There's no basis for any rumor or speculation," Liu quoted Tsai as saying.

Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter, that Bauhinia Culture (Hong Kong) Holdings Ltd was working on an offer that could bring the 118-year-old English language newspaper under its stable of media properties.

Bloomberg also said other state-backed entities could look to submit offers for South China Morning Post, adding a deal may not happen.

The South China Morning Post declined to comment on the internal letter. A spokesperson said that any reports suggesting Alibaba was considering a sale were "incorrect."

When Alibaba agreed to buy South China Morning Post in 2015, it was considered the Chinese tech giant's most politically sensitive acquisition because changes in the editorial leaning of the South China Morning Post are often seen as a measure for press freedom under Chinese rule.

Alibaba, whose founder Jack Ma came under fire for criticising China's financial watchdogs last year, has been under pressure from the Chinese government to divest some of its media assets, including the South China Morning Post, Bloomberg News reported in March.

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