TECHNOLOGY

Report: Alibaba plans to invest in Chinese retail data firm

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

China’s largest e-commerce player is making a move that could strengthen its offline endeavors.

Alibaba Group will invest $486 million (U.S. dollars) for a stake in a Chinese big data firm focused on hotels and retail. The investment will support the e-retailer’s offline operations, according to Reuters.

According to the report, a filing to the Shenzhen stock exchange on Thursday revealed that Alibaba will buy a 38% stake in Shiji Retail Information Technology Co., via its subsidiary Alibaba Investment Ltd. The technology company provides software and data systems to retailers, such as Starbucks Corp., as well as hotel firms and entertainment companies.

The deal follows the lead of Alibaba subsidiary, Taobao (China) Software Co Ltd, which took a roughly 15% stake in Beijing Shiji Information in 2014. The move helped to bolster its online travel business, according to the report.

Alibaba’s newest deal coincides with the company’s “New Retail” strategy, which is focused on combining online and offline stores. According to Reuters, Alibaba’s new investment will enable the e-retailer to leverage big-data to “shake up China’s huge but stalling retail market.”

This is Alibaba’s latest initiative to boost its physical retail presence. For example, the company operated 25 Hema fresh grocery stores as of December 31, 2017. In November 2017, Alibaba formed a strategic alliance with Sun Art Group Limited, a leading Chinese hypermarket and supermarket chain with over 440 stores nationwide.

Overall, Alibaba has more than $10 billion of investments into brick-and-mortar outlets, Reuters added.

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