Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) completed the acquisition of Hong Kong’s leading English language newspaper the South China Morning Post. The first move after Alibaba become the owner was to make the newspaper free online.
China’s e-commerce giant announced to acquire the South China Morning Post Group’s media business in December last year for $175 million. The media business also include Hong Kong edition of Esquire, Elle and Cosmopolitan. SCMP shareholders approved the acquisition last month.
Alibaba said that its move to make digital content available for free is to satisfy the appetite for more varied coverage of China. But Chinese readers were not able to access the content of the newspaper online since March 3, before the start of China’s annual legislative session.
This raised people’s concerns on the paper’s editorial independence in the future. But Alibaba said that the newspaper’s new leadership would preserve its independence.
“Alibaba Group’s vision of bringing together SCMP’s heritage and editorial strength together with its technological prowess offers an assuring roadmap for SCMP’s passage into the digital realm with enhanced clarity and boosted confidence,” said Robin Hu, CEO of South China Morning Post Publishers.
The 113-year old newspaper was founded in 1903. The SCMP Group had revenue of 1.24 billion Hong Kong dollars (US$160 million) in 2015. Some analysts said that these publications would help Alibaba expose more readers to ads.
“If you cannot access content, you cannot see ads,” said Muzhi Li, an analyst at Arete Research Asia Ltd. “This move is all about driving traffic and helping sellers close more transactions.”