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Alibaba

China’s Alibaba mulls US$10 million investment in Sina Sports ahead of news site’s potential listing in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 August, 2015, 2:41pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 August, 2015, 1:09am

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba will invest over US$10 million in Sina Sports, after which the Chinese sports news site is expected to be spun off and listed in Hong Kong, local media said this week.

Such a deal would give Asia’s largest internet company a stake in all three of the country’s biggest online sports broadcasters, as it continues a buying spree this year that seems to have no limits in terms of either the group’s coffers or ambition.

Alibaba already has a 7.3 per cent share of LeTV, positing it as LeTV's second-biggest shareholder, and a lesser interest in player PPTV.

PPTV is owned by Chinese electronics retailer Suning, which Alibaba acquired 20 per cent of on Monday.

The group's latest foray into the world of sport comes in the wake of it making a bargain investment in half of a top-flight Chinese football team last year.

It built on that this summer by inking deals with European football powerhouses Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, and NBA star Kobe Bryant, to sell their merchandise on the global version of its e-commerce platform Tmall.

Alibaba's latest investment would make it the major stockholder of Sina Sports, which operates under news portal Sina. Sina also serves as the parent of microblogging site Sina Weibo, the country’s No 2 Twitter-like service.

Yunfeng Capital, a private equity co-founded by Alibaba’s lead founder Jack Ma Yun, will lead the first round of fundraising after Sina Sports separates from its parent company, Hong Kong-based iFeng News reported on Wednesday.

Alibaba declined to comment on the issue when contacted by the South China Morning Post.

The ever-expanding group has been making whole or partial acquisitions of a diverse array of companies this year that has seen its tentacles spread to various fields including finance, logistics, medicine, big data, movies, music, social media, online-to-offline operations and sport.

It considered investing in Sina’s sports and video sections as early as two years ago, according to reports by QQ.com, the news portal of Tencent, one of China’s three big internet companies which also owns mobile messaging service WeChat.

Earlier this month, Alibaba announced that it would partner with Sina Sports to create a new social media platform for LA Lakers' star Bryant.

The two Chinese partners previously tried to win exclusive broadcasting rights to show NBA games in China, and thus build on Sina Sports’ role as the major broadcaster of American basketball in the country, media reports said.

But rival Tencent became the exclusive digital broadcaster after closing a five-year deal with the NBA for US$500 million this January. 

Alibaba stepped into the sports field in June 2014 when it purchased a 50 per cent stake in football club Guangzhou Evergrande for 1.2 billion yuan (US$187.5 million). 

The team was subsequently renamed Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao FC. Taobao is Alibaba’s C2C e-commerce platform.