Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., is in discussions to buy a stake in the SCMP Group, the publisher of Hong Kong-based newspaper, the South China Morning Post, Bloomberg reported, citing sources.
The talks are at an advanced stage and a signing ceremony for the deal will be announced soon, the sources told Bloomberg. The 112-year-old newspaper was once reportedly the world’s most profitable newspaper but changing reading habits -- like a preference for consuming news online -- has presented the publishing house with the challenges in the shape of falling circulation and earnings. For three years the newspaper, which was the group’s strongest asset, has been posting declining profits, Bloomberg reported.
In 1993, Rupert Murdoch sold most of his stake in the paper to Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok and since then there has not been much change in the control of the paper, Bloomberg reported. However, of late, technology industry tycoons have been attracted to the ailing, aging newspaper business. And if the latest talks succeed, Ma could join a list of Internet tycoons looking for a stake in the traditional newspaper industry.
In 2013, Amazon Inc.’s Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million, ending the Graham family's 80-year ownership of the newspaper. In 2012, Chris Hughes, one of the co-founders of Facebook Inc., bought a majority stake in the New Republic magazine.
Earlier this month, Ma was asked in an interview if he was looking to buy a stake in SCMP and he said that he is "watching a lot of companies right now."
Further details of the deal were not available and neither SCMP nor Alibaba confirmed the news, Bloomberg reported, adding that Kuok’s group, Kerry Media, which owns the SCMP, also did not comment on the deal.