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China's Alibaba to buy 50% stake in Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club

Alibaba.com's headquarters in Hangzhou, China
Thomas Lombard | Wikipedia
Alibaba.com's headquarters in Hangzhou, China

Alibaba, China's largest e-commerce company, agreed on Thursday to take a 50 percent stake in Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club, winners of last year's Asian Champions League, for 1.2 billion yuan ($192 million).

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Evergrande Real Estate will see its full ownership of Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club (F.C.) reduced to a 50 percent stake once the deal is completed, said Evergrande Chairman Xu Jiayin at a joint-press conference held with Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma on Thursday.

Even as Alibaba prepares for a blockbuster IPO that could value the firm at $152 billion, the firm and its affiliates are rapidly expanding beyond its traditional e-commerce businesses, investing in finance, entertainment and setting up a film company in Hong Kong.

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"We're not investing in football, we're investing in entertainment," said Alibaba's Ma. "Alibaba's future strategies are health and entertainment."

In January, Alibaba and private equity affiliate Yunfeng Capital paid $170 million for a controlling stake in pharmaceutical data firm CITIC 21CN.

The football club will issue new shares and invite 20 strategic investors to each take a 2 percent stake in the enlarged shareholding. This will eventually reduce Alibaba's and Evergrande Real Estate's shareholdings to 30 percent each.

The club will then hold 2.4 billion yuan cash, said Evergrande's Xu. "When the conditions are right for the club to go public, it will," he said.

"We want to use the Internet and technology to help traditional enterprises transform," Alibaba's Ma added. "Alibaba doesn't do real estate, but will support real estate companies like Evergrande."

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Evergrande Real Estate reported 2013 advertising revenues of 363 million yuan ($58.1 million) from its football and volleyball clubs, up 23 percent from the previous year.

Shares of Evergrande Real Estate were up 3.33 percent at the end of morning trading in Hong Kong on Thursday, versus a 0.21 percent fall in the Hang Seng Index.

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