Alibaba buys South China Morning Post

China’s e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has agreed to buy Hong Kong’s English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post.

The purchase also includes SCMP Group’s other media assets, such as Esquire, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

Alibaba executive vice-chairman Joseph Tsai said that once the purchase was complete, the Post’s digital subscription model would be abandoned.

“The paywall is so inconvenient, even for people who want to pay, there is friction… Why not make content more accessible to anybody who wants to come on a global basis, on a mobile app, on a mobile phone? That is our philosophy,” he said.

Alibaba will also invest more in the newsroom, but will retain the broadsheet format of the print edition.

The deal has raised concerns over the paper’s editorial independence. In recent years, the paper has softened its reporting on China, and there are concerns this deal could compromise press freedom in the city.

Mr Tsai did not see a problem. “We think the world needs a plurality of views when it comes to China coverage,” he said.

“China’s rise as an economic power and its importance to world stability is too important for there to be a singular thesis.”

The 112-year-old newspaper was first published on November 6, 1903. It was first listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1971.

Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok’s Kerry Media bought a controlling interest in the company in 1993 from News Corp.

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