Alibaba Group chairman Jack Ma announced today at a press conference that the company will buy a 50% stake in Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club, one of China’s top soccer teams. The deal’s value was not disclosed, but it is reportedly worth 1.2 billion yuan ($192 million), according to Xinhua, the official Chinese state news agency.
The investment may be part of an effort by Alibaba to extend its core offerings beyond e-commerce and into online entertainment ahead of its IPO, as it faces more competition from other e-commerce firms like JD.com, which recently held a successful IPO. We’ve emailed Alibaba for comment. Other recent investments that can bolster Alibaba’s online entertainment offerings include Youku, AKA the YouTube of China.
As Jon Russell of The Next Web points out, it’s not unusual for Asian tech firms to own a stake in a sports club. Japanese companies SoftBank, Rakuten and DeNA each own a baseball team, and several Asian companies sponsor European football clubs.
Guangzhou Evergrande is one of China’s leading soccer teams and is headed by Marcello Lippi, the former Italian national team coach.