China’s Alibaba confirmed Friday evening that it is to buy the South China Morning Post, the leading English-language newspaper in Hong Kong.

The deal has been rumored for weeks, and the SCMP group confirmed last month that it was in preliminary talks.

This is a proposition that is in high demand by readers around the world who care to understand the world’s second largest economy,” said Alibaba vice chairman Joe Tsai in a statement.

The SCMP Group has other publishing assets that include the local edition of Esquire, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmopolitan.

It also has substantial property investments including the old Shaw film studios, which it is seeking to be developed. It is not currently clear if these are also part of the assets being sold to Alibaba.

The acquisition is the first move into old media by an otherwise largely digital Alibaba, and in the past weeks numerous questions have been raised as to how the company will manage the iconic century-old publishing property.

The deal is certain to raise still more questions about mainland Chinese interests controlling media in Hong Kong, which is supposed to operate under a separate jurisdiction and permit freedom of the press — unlike China. In the last year China Media Capital took a small indirect stake in Television Broadcasts (TVB), the territory’s leading free-to-air TV group, while number two TV group Asia Television (ATV) also has mainland backers.