Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s financial affiliate is in talks to invest in Chinese business magazine publisher Caixin Media Co. as billionaire founder Jack Ma expands his media interests, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Caixin, founded by Hu Shuli, has been discussing a stake sale with Ma's Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group Co., the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. No deal has been signed, the people said, declining to comment on the price or size of the stake.
Alibaba agreed in December to buy Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper as Ma, who controls Ant Financial, expands his media empire. An investment in Caixin, which has a news website, mobile applications and conference business, would mark another connection between Ma and the publisher's Chairman Li Ruigang.
In November Alibaba teamed with Li, Tencent Holdings Ltd., and Oriza Holdings to create CMC Holdings. Li is a former chairman of Shanghai Media Group, which formed a joint venture with Alibaba last year to create a financial data and information service.
Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with the media and data joint venture to sell news and data in China.
Caixin Media said in a statement Wednesday it was close to completing a round of funding that would bring in several new investors on top of existing backers Tencent and China Media Capital, though that wouldn't affect its editorial independence. It didn't name any incoming investors but added it would make disclosures as the law requires.
Based in Beijing, Caixin provides news and analysis of Chinese economics, finance and business. The company has more than 1.9 million fans on Sina Corp.'s Weibo, which compares with about 370,000 for Shanghai Securities News and more than 20 million for the official Xinhua news agency.
Since August, Caixin has sponsored Markit's China Purchasing Managers' Index, a private monthly gauge used by economic forecasters to track manufacturing.
Hu Shuli is among the best-known journalists in China and in 2011 was named by Time magazine to its list of the world's 100 most influential people. Under her leadership, the magazine has been known for its investigative reports into fraud and corruption. In 2014, it led Chinese media coverage on the investigation of former leader Zhou Yongkang, the most senior official charged with corruption since the founding of the Communist state.
Li also leads China Media Capital, Caixin's largest shareholder. Caixin is supervised by a publication under the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Its flagship magazine, Caixin Weekly, has a monthly circulation of about 220,000.
Ant Financial declined to comment in an e-mailed statement.