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Alibaba invests in 21st Century Media

2014-06-13 13:26 Global Times Web Editor: Qin Dexing

A consortium led by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding will invest 500 million yuan ($80 million) in business media group 21st Century Media for a 20 percent stake, news portal sina.com reported Thursday.

This is Alibaba's latest splurge after it announced Wednesday its full purchase of mobile Internet company UCWeb, which it already partially owned.

Although Alibaba declined to comment on the investment when contacted by the Global Times and did not make an announcement on its Weibo account as it has always done in the past for new investments, the news still triggered heated discussion in Chinese media.

"Alibaba aims to attract users on different platforms, including on PC, smartphone and now traditional media," Xu Yuan, an analyst at Hangzhou-based media consulting firm Media Dream Works, told the Global Times Thursday.

In addition to print media, Alibaba also launched strategic cooperation Tuesday with Shanghai Dragon TV in the fields of financing, program producing and commercial inserts, Shanghai-based newspaper the 21cbh.com reported Thursday.

In recent years, there has been growing concern in China that print media is dying in the era of Internet.

However, Xu said that mainstream print media still has great influence and resources although it is going through a hard time.

High-quality news is still the core competitiveness of traditional media, Xu said, noting news may be undervalued now but has a promising future.

In addition to Alibaba, many enterprises, State-owned or private ones, are showing interest in media.

After investing 50 million yuan in 21cbh.com, a business website of 21st Century Media, in January, State Grid Corp of China invested 160 million yuan in Shanghai-based China Business News media group and obtained a seat on the media group's board, sina.com reported.

Fosun Group, a private conglomerate, has invested 2 billion yuan in media, including cooperation with some well-known business newspapers, according to the Sina report.

It is worthy to invest in influential media, because media is not designed for making profits but to lead the public voices, the report said.

The investment tide has raised concern over whether media outlets can remain independent and objective when they are controlled or even owned by consortiums.

There is such a potential threat so media has to be self-disciplined, according to Xu.

"The media has to protect its credibility. Without that, media will be valueless," she said.

Liu Xiaoying, a professor with the Communication University of China, told the Global Times Thursday that business investment is a trend for the media industry.

"The investment from enterprises may bring pressure on the media's credibility but there is no need to shut down the door to outside capital," he said.

The Guangzhou-based 21st Century Media owns the 21st Century Business Herald and Moneyweek newspapers, the 21st Century Business Review and Forbes Chinese edition magazines, and the 21cbh.com business news website.

Reuters reported Thursday that from the beginning of 2013 to now, Alibaba and its affiliates have spent at least $9.9 billion in acquisitions of companies in a wide range of fields, including mapping service, retail, media and a football club.

Alibaba filed its prospectus in May, which proposed raising $1 billion in its US IPO, but analysts said it will most likely be higher.

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