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Alibaba’s Tsai says no plans to sell SCMP

Alibaba has no plans to change the ownership of Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP), according to an internal letter seen by Reuters following a Bloomberg News report that a Chinese government-owned firm was weighing up an offer to buy the newspaper.

SCMP’s CEO Gary Liu said in an internal company letter to staff seen by Reuters that there were no considerations of an ownership change, adding that Joe Tsai, Alibaba’s co-founder and SCMP’s chairman, had asked him to pass on a message to the paper’s staff.

“There has never been any discussion about SCMP’s ownership and Alibaba has no plans for any change. There’s no basis for any rumour or speculation,” he 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 that other state-backed entities could look to submit offers for SCMP, adding that a deal may not happen.

The SCMP declined to comment.

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

Alibaba, whose founder Jack Ma had come 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 SCMP, Bloomberg News reported in March.

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