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Alibaba, Tencent allegedly in talks to buy WPP China minority stake

Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Tencent are in talks to buy a minority stake in WPP’s China unit, according to Sky News’ report on Saturday, citing unnamed sources. Sky News said that Alibaba, Tencent and China Media Capital Holdings are in early-stage discussions to buy an approximately 20% stake in WPP China in a deal worth roughly US$2.5 billion.

The alleged deal would combine WPP’s Chinese agency operations into a new holding company, and WPP would retain majority ownership and control.

This news comes after Alibaba’s acquisition of Focus Media to tap into digital marketing, and would substantially push Alibaba’s presence in the advertising world.

Meanwhile, WPP has been embroiled in a leadership change with Sir Martin Sorrell stepping down last April. Executive Chairman Roberto Quarta said last month that the search for Sorrell’s replacement was well-advanced.

 The report said the deal had been brewing since before Sorrell left, and that Quarta went with co-chief operating officer Andrew Scott to China this month to continue talks.

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