Mainland internet giant Alibaba could be in talks to invest in Hong Kong’s SCMP Group, which publishes the South China Morning Post, China Daily reported on Monday.

In response to an email enquiry, a spokesperson for the SCMP Group refused to comment on “market rumours.” However, the newspaper’s verified account on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging platform, posted a message about the China Daily report, without confirming the news.

scmp alibaba investment
The verified SCMP account on Weibo posted a message citing China Daily’s report. Photo: Weibo.

The English-language daily is set to have a new editor-in-chief starting from January 2016. Current editor-in-chief Wang Xiangwei is set to return to Beijing while his deputy Tammy Tam will take on his role. At least three dozen staff members have left the paper in the past six months alone, including the entire SCMP International Edition team and much of the digital desk, according to sources.

Jack Ma. File Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Jack Ma. File Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The SCMP Group suspended trading in February 2013 after reporting a profit decrease of 26 percent for 2012. Its biggest shareholder is Malaysian conglomerate Kerry Group.

A spokesperson for the Alibaba Group was not immediately available for comment.

Alibaba has been increasing its presence in the media industry in China since 2009, buying stocks in newspapers, magazines, video websites and production companies. Its investment portfolio now boasts of some of the biggest names in China’s media and entertainment industry including Sina Weibo, Enlight Media, Huayi Brothers, China Business Network and Youku Tudou.

‘June 4’ comment controversy

In 2013, the SCMP published an interview with Alibaba founder Jack Ma, in which Ma made a controversial comment about the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy student protests.

Ma defended late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s decision to evict students from the Tiananmen Square using violence, saying it was “the most correct decision.” The comment was deleted hours after the article was published.

The reporter who conducted the interview was suspended and later resigned.

The SCMP said in a statement that the reporter had revised the article without permission from editors. Alibaba also issued a statement, saying the SCMP had quoted Ma “improperly.”

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.