Alibaba, Throughout Years Assembled A Formidable Portfolio Of Media Assets That Span Print, Broadcast, Digital, Social Media And Advertising.

By Jing Yang

China’s government has asked Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. BABA -3.71% to dispose of its media assets, as officials grow more concerned about the technology giant’s sway over public opinion in the country, according to people familiar with the matter.

Discussions over the matter have been held since early this year, after Chinese regulators reviewed a list of media assets owned by the Hangzhou-headquartered company, whose mainstay business is online retail. Officials were appalled at how expansive Alibaba’s media interests have become and asked the company to come up with a plan to substantially curtail its media holdings, the people said.

Alibaba, Founded By Billionaire Jack Ma, Has Throughout The Years Assembled A Formidable Portfolio Of Media Assets That Span Print, Broadcast, Digital, Social Media And Advertising. Notable holdings include stakes in the Twitter -like Weibo platform and several popular Chinese digital and print news outlets, as well as the South China Morning Post, the premier English-language newspaper in Hong Kong. Several of these holdings are in U.S.-listed companies. Such influence is seen as posing serious challenges to the Chinese Communist Party and its own powerful propaganda apparatus, the people said. The party’s propaganda department didn’t reply to a faxed request seeking comment.

Alibaba declined to comment on discussions with regulators pertaining to possible media asset disposals. In a statement, the company said it is a passive financial investor in media assets. “The purpose of our investments in these companies is to provide technology support for their business upgrade and drive commercialsynergies with our core commerce businesses. We do not intervene or get involved in the companies’ day-to-day operations or editorial decisions,” the statement said.

The asset-disposal discussions are the latest development in a series of run-ins between Beijing and Mr. Ma, who was once China’s most-celebrated entrepreneur. Late last year, Chinese leader Xi Jinping personally scuttled plans by Ant Group Co.—Alibaba’s financial-technology affiliate—to launch what would have been the world’s largest initial public offering, amid growing unease in Beijing over Ant’s complex ownership structure and worries that Ant was adding risk to the financial system. Mr. Xi was also angry at Mr. Ma for criticizing his efforts to strengthen financial oversight.

Antitrust regulators are also preparing to levy a record fine in excess of $975 million over what they call anticompetitive practices on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms, The Wall Street Journal previously reported citing people with knowledge of the matter. In addition, Alibaba would be required to end a practice under which, regulators believe, the tech giant forbade merchants to sell goods on both Alibaba and rival platforms.

Beyond media and online retail, Alibaba also has a sizable entertainment division, consisting mainly of Hong Kong-listed Alibaba Pictures Group Ltd. and Youku Tudou Inc., one of China’s largest video streaming platforms. Officials also reviewed Alibaba’s entertainment portfolio, although outright divestitures in that part of Alibaba’s business may not be necessary, people familiar with discussions related to Alibaba’s entertainment business said.

This news was originally published at WSJ.