The Chinese Communist Party government has raised heat on Jack Ma yet again, this time seeking to end the billionaire's considerable hold over media. According to reports, the CCP government is pressuring Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to sell some of its media assets, including the South China Morning Post published from Hong Kong.
The news is the latest amid months-long speculation that President Xi Jining has been trying to cut the billionaire into size by targeting Alibaba and Ant Group. The Chinese antitrust investigators opened an investigation into Jack Ma's companies in late last year, triggering rumors that the tech wizard was being hounded.
$1 billion Fine on Alibaba
Jack Ma then went into a a long break from public appearances, even as the government blocked the initial public offering (IPO) of Ant Group. By the end of December last year, there were reports that the Chinese government was planning to nationalize Alibaba, Jack Ma's flagship company, as well as Ant Group.
Ma then reappeared in the public and there was news that the company was negotiating a deal with the government. Then, reports said last week the CCP government was moving ahead to impose a $1 billion fine on Alibaba after months-long investigation into alleged violation of monopoly rules.
The financial punishment for Alibaba will be finalized after the measures are approved by China's top leadership. The news of the CCP government slapping the hefty fine on Alibaba was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. The Alibaba spokesman did not accept a request for comment, AFP said.
Focus on Weibo and SCMP
On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that the government was mulling the downsizing of the media investments by Ma's empire as the the technology giant was controlling public opinion much to the discomfort of the government.
Beijing officials view Alibaba as a potential threat as its entities are wielding outsized influence in China's strictly controlled media and social media scenes.
The report notes that Ma built a sprawling portfolio of media assets in the last few years. This included online outlets, newspapers, television-production companies, social-media and advertising assets. Among media companies that Alibaba has major stake are Weibo and SCMP. There were reports last year that Ma was selling the newspaper but the deal did not go ahead.
Shares in Twitter-like microblogging platform Weibo fell as much as 2.4percent in US trading on Tuesday, after the news was reported.
Ma's fortunes started waning after he criticized President Xi Jinping's regulatory policies last year. Xi Jinping had said in October that the plan was to make China a more state-controlled economy based on domestic demand. Ma had obliquely criticized the move, drawing ire from the top echelons of the party-led government.