Capital Calls: Forced sales may serve Alibaba well

(Reuters) – Concise insights on global finance in the Covid-19 era.

SPRING CLEANING. Beijing might just help Alibaba tidy up its sprawling portfolio. Chinese regulators have asked the e-commerce giant to shed media assets, the Wall Street Journal reported. Discussions are continuing, but a 30% stake in Twitter-like Weibo, worth $3.5 billion, makes a good candidate. For years, the two companies have touted vague “social e-commerce” benefits, but the partnership has yielded few obvious rewards for Alibaba. Moreover, Weibo’s vast social media reach is attracting even more unwanted attention from authorities.

Other politically hazardous investments that add little value to Alibaba’s core online shopping business include Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper and video-streaming site Youku. A stake in local soccer club Guangzhou Evergrande, hatched over a drinking session between Alibaba founder Jack Ma and another tycoon in 2015, warrants booting out too. There may be broader concerns over such government intervention, but a decluttering effort could serve shareholders well.