China’s Alibaba Launches Film Company

IPO-bound Chinese e-commerce giant further expands entertainment labels.

CANNES – Alibaba, the Chinese home shopping giant that last week unveiled part of its plans for a massive IPO in New York, has set up a film company.

According to a regulatory filing, it registered Alibaba Films Group as a Hong Kong-based company in April before changing the name of the offshoot to Alibaba Pictures Group.

The new unit’s directors include Dong Ping and Zhao Chao. Both are also directors of Chinavision, the Hong Kong-listed film production company that Alibaba announced in March that it would acquire 60% for some $800 million. Dong and China vision were among the producers on last year’s Stephen Chow-directed mega-hit “Journey to the West.”

At the time of the Chinavision announcement, Alibaba said that it would set up a strategic committee to examine its options in entertainment and media. Alibaba has also said it intends to sell more digital content in future.

In the last weeks Alibaba has made a series of other moves in the media and entertainment arena. These include an agreement to pay $1.22 billion for an $18.5% stake in Chinese online video giant Youku Tudou; an agreement to buy a 20% stake in Internet TV company Wasu Media; and the establishment of Yu Le Bao, a crowdfunding-like film financing entity.

The company already has a digital entertainment operation, responsible for mobile games and music streaming service Xiami.

Alibaba’s IPO is expected to be one the biggest in the world this year. The company filed last week with U.S. securities regulators to launch a flotation that would raise $1 billion. The filing was a preliminary move, and the cash raised could rise to $15 billion. Financial analysts have estimated that the company could be worth in excess of $150 billion, making it the third-largest Internet company.

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