Alibaba Group has denied that it is in talks to purchase Ming Pao, one of Hong Kong’s most trusted newspapers.

Spokesperson Rico Ngai told Reuters on Thursday that the mainland internet giant is not in any negotiations. Earlier the Australian Financial Review cited sources with direct knowledge of the deal as saying that talks began in July and “could take some months to complete.”

jack ma scmp alibaba ming pao
Jack Ma. Photo: Wikicommons.

Alibaba, headed by the charismatic billionaire Jack Ma, has just finalised a deal this week to buy the South China Morning Post following weeks of speculation.

‘Trust’ Alibaba

The deal, which includes other media assets of the SCMP Group, was valued at HK$20.6 billion. The Hong Kong Journalist Association issued a statement saying it was “concerned” that the century-old broadsheet’s editorial independence may be eroded under the control of a Chinese company with close ties to Beijing.

Jack Ma's SCMP should seek balance
Seeking balance. Photo: HKFP.

On Wednesday, Ma rejected the criticism and called on the public to “trust” Alibaba to preserve media freedom., a mainland media website which is 15 percent owned by an Alibaba subsidiary, said last week that the SCMP purchase was “only the beginning” of Alibaba’s ambitious plan to buy overseas media assets. The report said purchase announcements of overseas radio stations, TV stations and news websites are expected to “come one after another.”

Ming Pao is one of the most influential and credible media outlets in Hong Kong. According to a survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong last year, Ming Pao was the third most trusted newspaper in the city and the second most trusted Chinese-language newspaper.

HKFP has approached Ming Pao for comment.

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.