Jack Ma’s dream of building a leading digital entertainment platform in China has moved one big step closer to reality following the merger of Youku Tudou into Ma’s rapidly expanding Alibaba empire.
Alibaba confirmed the acquisition of Youku, which is China’s YouTube-like streaming service, on Nov. 6 in a deal reportedly worth about $3.5 billion. The all-cash transaction gives Alibaba approximately 60.6% of the total voting power of Youku shares, of which the final price represents a premium of 35.1% over the closing price of Youku Tudou’s corporate share price, as of Oct. 15, 2015.
Youku’s board of directors, led by Victor Koo (pictured), unanimously approved the merger after seeking recommendations from an independent special committee.
Koo, who will remain on board as Youku Tudou CEO, said in a statement that the deal maximizes value for the company’s shareholders, and also benefits customers by allowing it to grow its content and multi-screen offerings.
“We are confident that we will strengthen our market position and further accelerate our growth through the integration of our advertising and consumer businesses with Alibaba’s platform and Alipay services,” he said.
The transaction is expected to close in Q1 2016 and is subject to customary closing conditions, including the majority agreement of shares present.
Alibaba, which has built a multi-billion-dollar empire on e-commerce and advertising, already owned an 18.3 % stake in Youku, an investment for which it paid about $1.2 billion in 2014.
The move comes as the company, headed by Ma, has been making aggressive moves into the streaming world. In September, it launched its SVOD service, Tmall Box Office (TBO) on some box tops into the Chinese market, OTT devices and various smart TVs. The arrival of the service was announced in June, just weeks after Netflix was widely rumored to be exploring its options in China, the world’s second-largest economy.