HONG KONG, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Limited has acquired Hong Kong's largest English-language newspaper in an bid to better communicate the country's prowess as a global economic power and refute negative portrayals of China in Western media, officials said Friday.
Alibaba agreed Friday to buy the media assets of the South China Morning Post -- a newspaper that for years has challenged state-run media with aggressive reporting on hot button issues.
"The agreement combines the heritage and editorial excellence of the SCMP with Alibaba's digital expertise to provide comprehensive and insightful news and analysis of the big stories in Hong Kong and China," Alibaba said in a news release Friday.
The agreement includes the acquisition of the magazine, recruitment, outdoor media, events & conferences, education and digital media businesses of SCMP Group, Alibaba said.
"With proven expertise, especially in mobile Internet, Alibaba is in an excellent position to leverage technology to create content more efficiently and reach a global audience," SCMP CEO Robin Hu said. "We welcome Alibaba's commitment to invest additional resources in its editorial and business operations to make the SCMP even stronger."
"The South China Morning Post is unique because it focuses on coverage of China in the English language. This is a proposition that is in high demand by readers around the world who care to understand the world's second largest economy," said Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba Group. "Our vision is to expand the SCMP's readership globally through digital distribution and easier access to content."
The deal is reported by The New York Times to be worth about $100 million. China's largest e-commerce company, Alibaba does approximately $12 billion in annual revenue and already owns assets in Chinese film and domestic media enterprises.
The Post, owned by the SCMP Group, has been criticized in recent years for toning down its aggressive reporting style.
"Some have suggested that ownership by Alibaba will compromise the SCMP's editorial independence. This criticism reflects a bias of its own, as if to say newspaper owners must espouse certain views, while those that hold opposing views are 'unfit'," Tsai wrote in a letter to readers Friday. "We think the world needs a plurality of views when it comes to China coverage. China's rise as an economic power and its importance to world stability is too important for there to be a singular thesis."
In an interview for the publication, Tsai said the acquisition will have another major impact on the paper's readership: the content will be free.