Alibaba isn’t afraid to invest its money in new projects — its most recent deal saw it shell out nearly $250 million for a stake in SingPost — but now the e-commerce giant is getting into sports, soccer to be precise, after buying a 50 percent share of China’s top team Guangzhou Evergrande.

Xinhua reports that the investment is reportedly worth $192 million, and it will see Alibaba become “part owner” of the side which won China’s domestic league and last year’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League.

It isn’t clear at this point why Alibaba is making the deal, though it may be inspired by other Asian companies that have increased their brand reputation and visibility through sports. Over in Japan, operator SoftBank, e-commerce firm Rakuten and game-maker DeNA are among the companies that own a baseball team, while a number of Asian companies sponsor Europe-based soccer teams.

Alibaba is thought to be in the final stages of preparing its US IPO, which analysts estimate could value the company at more than $150 billion. That gives it a lot of scope for financial investment in Guangzhou Evergrande.

Can we expect the company’s fierce rival Tencent to respond in turn and buy into a Chinese soccer franchise? That would certainly bring new meaning to their ongoing competition.

Image via JIJI PRESS / AFP