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Alibaba buys US$192-mil. half stake in China's soccer club before US offer

SHANGHAI--E-commerce giant Alibaba said Thursday it will pay US$192 million for a 50 percent stake in China's top soccer club, in a frenzy of deal-making before a multi-billion dollar share offer in the United States.

Alibaba will pay 1.2 billion yuan (US$192 million) for the stake in Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande, with property developer and existing shareholder Evergrande Group holding the remainder, according to an Alibaba statement and company officials.

Evergrande, who won both the Chinese Super League and the AFC Champions League titles in 2013, said it had introduced Alibaba as a strategic investor.

“We're not only investing in Evergrande, we are investing in Chinese football,” Alibaba founder Jack Ma told a news conference, adding the price was cheap.

The deal marked the latest in a series of high-profile acquisitions by Alibaba as it seeks to expand beyond its traditional base ahead of a planned U.S. listing that could raise around US$15 billion, putting it on par with Facebook's US$16 billion IPO in 2012.

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