According to The Guardian, Beijing has ordered e-commerce company Alibaba to sell off media assets including Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP) in an attempt to crack down on the growing public influence held by the country’s influential tech empires.
Alibaba has become the center of this crackdown after founder Jack Ma, one of China’s most popular, outspoken, and wealthiest entrepreneurs, delivered a blunt speech last year where he criticized national regulators that reportedly infuriated the president, Xi Jinping.
Following the comments, Chinese regulators blocked the $34bn stock market flotation of Alibaba online payments subsidiary Ant Group, which would have been the biggest share offering in history, and Ma didn’t make any public appearance for almost three months. Last week, it emerged that regulators are reportedly preparing to hit Alibaba with a record fine in excess of $975m over anti-competitive practices.
Alibaba has managed to assemble an impressive portfolio of media assets, ranging from social media to advertising. Notable holdings include stakes in the Twitter-like Weibo platform and several popular Chinese digital and print news outlets, as well as the South China Morning Post, a leading English-language newspaper in Hong Kong. Several holdings are in U.S.-listed companies.
The discussion about selling SCMP began last year, according to Bloomberg. “Be assured that Alibaba’s commitment to SCMP remains unchanged and continues to support our mission and business goals,” Gary Liu, the newspaper company’s chief executive officer, told employees in an internal memo reviewed by Bloomberg.