China's Alibaba Outlines Plans for Film Business, Jet Li to Join Board

Jet Li to join board of new Alibaba film unit

The world's biggest e-commerce company has been making bold moves in the entertainment sector, ahead of a $1 billion initial public offering.

Chinese online retail giant Alibaba, which has just filed for a $1 billion initial public offering, will change the name of the ChinaVision media group it bought in March to Alibaba Film Group, as it steps up its expansion into the film business.

The company is planning to invest in eight to 10 films every year, three to five long TV dramas and the same number of web-only dramas, China Business News reported.

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The board will include action star Jet Li, who is close to Jack Ma, the former English teacher who founded Alibaba in 1999. Alibaba now accounts for as much as 80 percent of all e-commerce in China and is the world's biggest e-commerce firm.

The company has plans to sign big-name directors, such as Wong Kar-wai, Peter Chan and Stephen Chow to its new film unit.

Albibab's upcoming IPO could be the biggest in history, and the company will trade either on the New York Stock Exchange or the NASDAQ.

Ma has previously stressed the importance of boosting China's culture industries, because without it, the "pockets are full but the brain is empty."

Alibaba, in which Yahoo has a stake, has been on a buying spree of late.

Late last month, Alibaba said it would partner with Yunfeng Capital to buy an 18.5 percent stake in China's leading online video company Youku Tudou.

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In March, it bought a controlling stake in ChinaVision for $804 million, giving Alibaba access to TV and movie content.

The directors of Alibaba Pictures Group were listed in the filing as Dong Ping, chairman of ChinaVision, and Zhao Chao, also an executive director of ChinaVision, according to a Reuters report.

Local media, citing company sources, said that Alibaba will use the new film group to launch movie channels on its Taobao and Tiaomao e-commerce services.

The company also set up a film investment fund called Yulebao, which has met its funding target of $11.77 million after just five days. The service likely could have raised tens of millions more had it not capped its initial investment round.

In that time, 223,800 investors bought 785,500 shares in hot upcoming Chinese movie projects, such as Jean-Jacques Annaud's Wolf Totem and the next two installments of the Tiny Times franchise.

Yulebao is an investment vehicle, similar to crowdfunding, that lets thousands of ordinary Chinese become microfinanciers for movies using smartphone apps via Alibaba's mobile Taobao platform to invest.