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Alibaba and Suning planning sports joint-venture

Chinese conglomerates Alibaba and Suning are planning a joint venture that would create the market’s most powerful sports business, according to industry news website Lanxiong Sports.

Alibaba, whose core business is China’s biggest e-commerce platform, has sports assets including streaming platform Youku Sports and Ali Sports, a company with activities in media rights acquisitions, sponsorship and event operation, among others.

Suning’s sports assets include Italian football club Inter Milan, Chinese football club Jiangsu Suning, streaming platform PPTV, and a chain of sports goods shops.

Lanxiong Sports reports that the deal is not yet finalised, and the name, launch date, proportion of each share, executive structure and assets of the joint venture are yet to be unveiled.

The deal follows an agreement last year whereby the two companies began exploring joint work, particularly in respect of their media operations. But the two companies have worked together since at least 2015, Lanxiong reports, when Alibaba invested in Suning, becoming its second-biggest shareholder. In July last year, Suning Sports raised $600m in an investment round from firms including Alibaba and bank Goldman Sachs.

It is in the Chinese sports media industry that the joint venture could be most significant. Youku and PPTV are two of the biggest sports streaming platforms in the market. Under the existing cooperation, PPTV shares some content with Youku, including the Chinese domestic football league, Asian Football Confederation, Uefa Champions League, Spanish LaLiga, German Bundesliga, and Italian Serie A.

Aside from Youku and PPTV, the other major players in the streaming rights market are Tencent Sports and iQiyi.