China’s Alibaba Buys Controlling Stake in Film, TV Producer ChinaVision

2:17 AM PST 03/12/2014 by Clifford Coonan
Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba

The $800 million deal will give the e-commerce giant access to ChinaVision's diverse content, including Premier League soccer and local blockbusters, such as Stephen Chow’s "Journey to the West."

China's largest e-commerce company, Alibaba, has bought a controlling stake in ChinaVision Media Group for $804 million, the latest salvo in a battle with rival Internet giant Tencent.

Alibaba has been valued at as much as $200 billion -- considerably higher than Facebook's market capitalization of $178 billion as of Wednesday -- and is widely expected to go for an initial public offering soon.

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Alibaba’s purchase of a ChinaVision stake will give it TV and movie content, as well as access to games and even English Premier League soccer.

ChinaVision Media produces and distributes movies and TV dramas. The company was entitled to 30 percent of investment return in last year’s top box-office title, Stephen Chow’s Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons.

ChinaVision and Alibaba have said they will set up a strategic committee to explore future opportunities in online entertainment and media-related areas. Alibaba launched a TV operating system, Ali TV, last year.

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Alibaba, which operates e-commerce businesses including Tmall.com and Taobao, is competing with Tencent, China’s largest Internet group, and the country’s top search engine, Baidu, for dominance in the online marketplace, with each group looking to grow in each other’s markets.

Tencent currently owns about 8 percent of ChinaVision, but its stake in ChinaVision has been reduced to around 3 percent after a surge in the stock price following the Alibaba move.

Earlier this week, Tencent took a 15 percent stake in China’s second biggest online retailer, JD.com, which is Alibaba’s archrival, and is generally seen as a stronger player in the booming mobile market.

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