Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba can now officially count a sports team among its assets. The company paid RMB 1.2 billion (US$192 million) to buy a 50 percent stake in a Guangzhou-based football club, as confirmed by Sina Sports. The other 50 percent is owned by Chinese real estate company Evergrande (HKG:3333). Alibaba founder Jack Ma held a joint press conference in Guangzhou with real estate tycoon Xu Jiayin today to make the announcement.
Many fans were surprised by the move, not just because Alibaba suddenly wants in on China’s sports scene, but because it didn’t buy the local team in Hangzhou, where Alibaba was founded and is based. Ma was reportedly in talks with his hometown club last month, but apparently a deal didn’t surface.
Guangzhou Evergrande won China’s domestic league and the Asian Football Confederation Champions League last year. It was the first Chinese team to win the latter since 1994. The former coach of Italy’s national team Marcello Lippi currently leads the team.
Alibaba has been on an investment spree leading up to its impending IPO, including US$250 million in Singapore’s postal service SingPost, US$1.22 billion in video portal Youku, US$1.5 billion into online mapping service Autonavi, and US$804 million into film studio ChinaVision (where action star Jet Li just became a board director).
(Image credit: Alexchen4836 via Wikimedia Commons)