Alibaba finance arm in talks to invest in Chinese media group Caixin: sources

People visit the booth of Alibaba Group during an exhibition in Beijing, China, September 22, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s internet finance arm Ant Financial Services Group [ANTFIN.UL] is in talks to invest in Chinese news outlet Caixin Media, said two people familiar with the matter.

Ant Financial, Caixin and Alibaba declined to comment.

Caixin, with its eponymous flagship magazine, is an influential business, politics and finance news media group founded by outspoken editor Hu Shuli. Caixin also possesses data and indices which could complement Ant’s financial and wealth management services, should the companies agree to a deal.

In a statement on its website on Wednesday, Caixin said it was nearing completion of a funding round, introducing a number of unnamed high-quality investors, but that new and original shareholders alike will recognize the group’s editorial independence.

Caixin’s statement did not say how much it was seeking to raise. The sources did not say how much Ant Financial plans to invest in Caixin.

E-commerce titan Alibaba and its affiliates have been expanding their media empire, investing in everything from film, television and music to video games and news.

In December, Alibaba agreed to a $266 million acquisition of Hong Kong’s flagship English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post, a controversial deal that has raised questions over the publication’s editorial independence.

The talks with Caixin also come as China’s ruling Communist Party tries to maintain a chokehold over domestic media and public opinion.

Last month, President Xi Jinping told Chinese state media they must speak for the party and protect its authority and unity, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Reporting by Shu Zhang and Paul Carsten; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman