Australia's Seek in talks over new investors in Zhaopin

(Reuters) – Online jobs portal Seek Ltd SEK.AX is in talks with a number of parties on whether to bring new investors into its Chinese unit, it said on Wednesday, after a report indicated that Alibaba BABA.N9988.HK was eyeing an investment.

Melbourne-based Seek said the discussions aimed “to assess whether the introduction of new investors could better support Zhaopin’s long term growth aspirations.”

Seek did not name the parties it was talking to, but late on Tuesday, The Information here website said e-commerce giant Alibaba was looking to invest “hundreds of millions of dollars” in Zhaopin, driving up the Australian firm’s shares by 13%.

Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The discussions, just three years after Seek led a consortium to take the then New York-listed Zhaopin private, come as the firm’s underlying annual profit halved after the coronavirus pandemic put a freeze on corporate hiring plans.

However Zhaopin had “recovered well” in the June quarter as China remerged from lockdowns earlier than other nations, the company said, adding that its performance “bodes well for a robust recovery” when normal conditions return.

“Our long-term focus remains on supporting Zhaopin to grow its market share in a large but competitive human capital market,” it said in August.

Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Clarence Fernandez