China’s government wants Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE:BABA) to sell its media assets due to concerns about the technology giant’s growing influence over public opinion in the country, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.
What Happened: Chinese officials were shocked at how Alibaba’s media business has grown despite the company’s mainstay business being online retail, according to the report.
Alibaba’s media assets are seen as influencing the general public’s view and posing a threat to the Chinese Communist Party and its own powerful propaganda apparatus, as per WSJ. However, the government has not specified which assets would need to be divested by Alibaba.
Founded by billionaire Jack Ma, Alibaba has quietly built a portfolio of media assets over the years, including stakes in the Twitter-like Weibo (NASDAQ:WB) as well as video platform Bilibili Inc. (NASDAQ:BILI), and the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
The company also has joint ventures or partnerships with state-run media like Xinhua News Agency and stakes in other online as well as print news outlets.
Why It Matters: Alibaba has been facing increased regulatory scrutiny since last year after a speech by co-founder Jack Ma rubbed the Chinese Communist Party the wrong way.
Alibaba’s Ant Financial subsidiary was reprimanded for being a risk to the financial system and was asked to enact changes that could severely impede its business prospects. As a result, Alibaba was forced to shelve IPO plans for Ant Group.
Jack Ma made his first public appearance after months in January this year. The entrepreneur had not been seen in public since Oct. 24 after he criticized China’s regulatory system at a summit in Shanghai.
Price Action: Alibaba shares closed nearly 0.7 lower on Monday at $230.28.
Photo courtesy: World Economic Forum via Wikimedia