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Chinese actress buys into Alibaba Pictures as it warns of losses

[BEIJING] Chinese actress Zhao Wei has taken a major stake in Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd's film division, bringing some star power to a company that warned on Monday it could rack up losses of as much as HK$600 million (US$77.41 million) for 2014.

The star of "Shaolin Soccer" and "Red Cliff" and Huang Youlong, her husband, paid more than HK$3 billion for 9.18 per cent of Alibaba Pictures Group Ltd, according to Hong Kong stock exchange filings.

Zhao, considered one of the country's most bankable stars, and her husband made the acquisition through holding company Gold Ocean Media Inc in December.

Online commerce company Alibaba bought and renamed the film-making company for more than US$800 million last year, as it expands into movies and entertainment content. This month, Alibaba Pictures unveiled its first movie project under its new ownership, a romance to be produced by acclaimed Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai.

Those moves came as Chinese Internet rivals Tencent Holdings Ltd and Baidu Inc also began to explore forays into movie-making and film content.

But Alibaba Pictures itself continues to struggle. In August, the company disclosed accounting irregularities after an internal review.

Last week, it said it hoped to replace its auditors, Deloitte Touche Tomatsu, with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

And on Monday, it revealed a "significant drop" in 2014 revenue that it blamed on delays in TV-series distribution, the cancellation or delay of slated films, and a drop in magazine advertising revenue.

Alibaba Pictures, whose stock fell 1.26 per cent in Hong Kong on Monday, added that it would reveal more when it releases annual results.