Alibaba has no plans to sell Hong Kong's South China Morning Post (SCMP), the e-commerce giant's co-founder Joe Tsai was quoted as saying in a letter to SCMP staff seen by Reuters, following a Bloomberg News report that a Chinese government-owned firm was weighing up an offer to buy the paper.
SCMP's CEO Gary Liu said in the letter that Joe Tsai, Alibaba's co-founder and SCMP's chairman, had asked him to pass on a message that there were no plans for a change in ownership.
"There has never been any discussion about SCMP's ownership, and Alibaba has no plans for any change. There's no basis for any rumour or speculation," Liu quoted Tsai as saying.
Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter, that Bauhinia Culture (Hong Kong) Holdings Ltd was working on an offer that could bring the 118-year-old English language newspaper under its stable of media properties.
Bloomberg also said other state-backed entities could look to submit offers for SCMP, adding a deal may not happen.
The SCMP declined to comment on the internal letter. A spokesperson said that any reports suggesting Alibaba was considering a sale were "incorrect".
Alibaba, whose founder Jack Ma came under fire for criticising China's financial watchdogs last year, has been under pressure from the Chinese government to divest some of its media assets, including the SCMP, Bloomberg News reported in March.
RTHK has contacted the SCMP for a response. (Reuters with additional reporting by RTHK)