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Reuters/Pichi Chuang
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An Alibaba deal to buy the South China Morning Post is expected before Christmas

By Josh Horwitz

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and Hong Kong newspaper The South China Morning Post are expected to sign their a merger agreement before Christmas, a source briefed on the negotiations told Quartz.

Alibaba plans to purchase the newspaper division of the SCMP Group in order to boost its media division, which includes the Youtube-esque Youku Tudou, the Bloomberg-esque CBN, and many other media properties, a second source briefed on the negotiations told Quartz. Alibaba, the company, not Jack Ma, the founder, is the driving force behind the deal, this person said, and the purchase is being led by one of Alibaba’s investment divisions. The newspaper’s editorial side will remain independent, the source added.

In addition to the century-old daily newspaper, The SCMP Group also owns the Hong Kong distribution rights to Cosmopolitan and other magazines, an advertising and marketing unit, and a major stake in the Bangkok Post. It is unclear whether Alibaba will purchase these assets as well.

An Alibaba purchase of The South China Morning Post would mark the first acquisition of a non-mainland China news property by a  Chinese internet company. Hong Kong’s “one country two systems” status, which means that unlike on the mainland there are no restrictions on free speech, means Ma, and the paper’s editorial direction will be closely watched.