Chinese ecommerce company Alibaba has confirmed the purchase of a 50 per cent stake in one of the country's leading football clubs.
Alibaba, which is set to launch an initial public offering in the US later in the year, has made an investment in Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club.
Billionaire founder Jack Ma has completed a number of acquisitions in the last few months as Alibaba gets set to float on the stock market, with a reported 1.2 billion yuan (£114 million) spent on the football team.
"We're not investing in football, we're investing in entertainment," Mr Ma told a news conference today (June 5th). "Alibaba's future strategies are health and entertainment."
Among the companies Alibaba has already snapped up over the course of 2014 include Chinese online video company Youku Tudou. Since that purchase, Alibaba has started offering games on its website.
Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club is currently the most dominant team in the Chinese leagues, having won the championship every year since 2011. The club is currently being managed by the Italian coach Marcello Lippi.
Evergrande Real Estate Group, which is one of Hong Kong's biggest property developers, was previously the owner of the football club, but Evergrande chairman Xu Jiayin explained the team is seeking new investment.
Shares of Evergrande Real Estate Group were up by over three per cent in Hong Kong on the back of the news Alibaba has made a major investment in the team.
Investors will now be keeping a close eye on Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club to see whether or not the money put into the club by the ecommerce company is going to take it to the next level and allow it to compete on a global front.
Football is rapidly growing in popularity in China, but the Asian country did not qualify for this year's World Cup competition, which is taking place in Brazil this month and will get underway on June 12th.
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