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[SHANGHAI] The publisher of one of China's most respected business magazines, Caixin, said Wednesday it was seeking new investors following reports e-commerce giant Alibaba plans to take a stake in the company as it looks to expand its media empire.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma is seeking to diversify beyond the core business of providing online retail platforms and in December bought Hong Kong's premier English-language newspaper, a move that raised concerns about media independence.
Caixin Media provides financial and business news through its flagship magazine and several other platforms under the editorial leadership of Hu Shuli, who has received international attention for her brand of investigative journalism within the boundaries of the Communist-ruled state.
Bloomberg News said on Wednesday that Alibaba's financial services unit Ant was in talks to invest in Caixin Media, but gave no size or price for the stake.
China's TMTpost, a business technology information provider, reported that the deal had already been signed.
Caixin Media said in a statement it was about to bring in "several high-quality institutional investors", without identifying them.
"The new investors, like the original shareholders, respect Caixin Media's principal of editorial independence which is not influenced by the business interests of shareholders," it said.
A spokesman for Alibaba declined to comment.
The December purchase of Hong Kong's South China Morning Post for US$266 million has sparked fears the newspaper will lose its independent voice, in what analysts see as part of a gradual erosion of press freedoms after the semi-autonomous city was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Others have compared Alibaba's media push under Ma to that of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who bought the respected Washington Post newspaper two years ago. Ma's net worth is now around US$27.3 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires.
Caixin's biggest shareholder is China Media Capital, a Shanghai-based media and entertainment investment firm, which in December bought a US$400 million stake in Premier League football giants Manchester City.