Word around Beijing’s CBD is that The Wall Street Journal and its publisher Dow Jones are in talks with Hexun.com about a deal to take a ten to twenty percent stake in China’s best-reputed financial news and information portal. As of last week a deal did not appear far off, two sources with ties to Hexun said, though terms of the negotiations were unclear. “From I’ve heard it sounds like a venture capital arrangement,” said one source.
One tantalizing question down the line is whether a tie-up could make for unprecedented cooperation on news and information products. The Journal already runs a Chinese-language site with translations of its daily headlines while DJ distributes its indeces and other market news and info to mainland clients. Hexun has been ramping up its editorial staff and services this year and is a sister operation of the country’s preeminent business magazine Caijing, which is making a renewed push to improve its English-language newsletter. It also just so happens that the two companies office in buildings kiddie-corner from one another in the capital.
Info-sharing or no, investing in Hexun, which bills itself the”portal of the middle class” would help DJ better vie with the likes of Reuters, the FT, Bloomberg and Xinhua Finance for the attention of brokers and investors in China at a time when they have with loads of cash to unload but little in the way of good options or advice on where to put it. Hexun and the connection-laden publishing group that oversees it, SEEC Media, stand to get a needed injection of capital and another boost to their venerable brand.
The potential partnership could be something of a blow to Reuters, which sources said had been flirting with a similar deal with Hexun for some time. Perhaps the negotations alone suggest as well that the government’s most recent attempt to designate Xinhua the toll gate for overseas-based wires has not deterred them from seeking private ventures but has encouraged them, rather, to explore alternative paths to the Chinese-language market. It’s safe to say Rupert Murdoch would be pleased.