Alibaba Spends $380 Million on Stake in China’s Enlight Media

Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, has agreed to pay $382 million for a major stake in Enlight Media, one of China’s leading film and TV producers and distributors.

In a filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, Enlight said that it had sold 2.8 billion new shares with Alibaba’s offshoot Hangzhou Ali Venture Capital buying 2.4 billion. The deal gives Alibaba some 8.8% of the company.

The move is a continuation of Alibaba’s expansion into entertainment. The company has already amassed a majority stake in ChinaVision, since renamed as Alibaba Pictures Group, a 16.5% stake in online video firm Youku Tudou, and an 8% stake in Huayi Brothers, a direct rival to Enlight.

Contacted by Variety, Alibaba said only: “We are not commenting on this deal at the moment. Please refer to the Shenzhen Exchange announcement.”

Enlight also declined comment, though one Chinese media source appeared to quote Enlight founder Wang Changtian as explaining “no reason other than Alibaba had been the highest bidder” for the shares offered in the funding round.

Controlled by Wang, Enlight is one of China’s major TV production groups. In September last year it struck a deal with Israel’s Keshet International to bring interactive talent show “Rising Star” to China where it will be broadcast in China on state-controlled China Central Television.

It is also a leading producer and distributor, with 2012 hit “Lost In Thailand” as its standout film title. It is also a co-investor in “Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and The Dark Crystal,” a Chinese New Year hit that has grossed $59 million in its first 11 days on release.

In common with other major Chinese studios, Enlight has been able to attract significant capital to boost its film and production slate. In December the company unveiled plans to establish a venture investment fund with a target of RMB1 billion (US$160 million), to invest in the Internet, media and entertainment, e-commerce and healthcare sectors in China. The same month, it also said that it was considering an online video venture with Qihoo.

Profits however have stagnated of late. Last week Enlight reported 2014 net profit of unchanged at $53.5 million (RMB329 million).

The acquisition move comes at a time when Alibaba’s shares have reached their lowest point in their five and a half month publicly-traded history. The company floated at$68 per share in September last year, but saw its shares close at $81.58, still some 20% above the IPO price. The shares have slid some 17% since late January, when it announced third quarter sales figures that disappointed investors.

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