Alibaba Buys $380 Million Stake in Chinese Production Firm Enlight

Jack Ma Illo - P 2014
Illustration by: Lars Leetaru

Jack Ma Illo - P 2014

The purchase makes the Chinese e-commerce giant Enlight's second-biggest shareholder and underlines Alibaba's ambitions to expand in the booming Chinese film sector.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has bought an 8.8 percent stake in Enlight Media, one of China’s leading private film and TV companies, for $380 million, the latest acquisition in its strategy of expanding in the entertainment business.

The news came in a stock market announcement to the Shenzhen stock exchange.

Alibaba spent over $3 billion in the entertainment industry last year, and the cash-rich company went window shopping for content and even potential acquisitions in Hollywood last year, but has yet to make a major move there.

The group has signed up top Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai to produce Alibaba Pictures' debut movie.

So far the group has been focused on building up a strong domestic base and the purchase of a stake in Enlight, which last year picked up Israeli production firm Keshet's Rising Star format, fits that strategy. Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma has ambitions to become a major player internationally and described Alibaba as "the biggest entertainment company in the world".

Alibaba's main income stream comes from selling products online, but its recent expansion have seen it invest in online video streaming sites, internet TV hardware, sports, film production and video games.

In August, Alibaba and Ma’s Yunfeng Capital bought a $1.2 billion stake in online video website Youku Tudou, and in June the company bought a 59.6 percent stake in Hong Kong's ChinaVision Media, which later became Alibaba Pictures.

Enlight has a strong track record with domestic productions and it, too, has made no secret of its international ambitions, including its Hollywood expansion.

The company has a strong domestic base. In 2012, its low-budget comedy Lost in Thailand took $202 million here. Last year, Enlight said it would make 32 movies in the period by May 2017, investing a total of $550 million.