Psst: Wanna buy a jumbo jet?

opinion September 10, 2018 01:00

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Ma is retiring from Alibaba today after transforming the e-commerce company into a global behemoth that has branched out into various businesses.



Here are the different ventures that have helped Alibaba grow into one of the world’s most valuable firms, worth $420.8 billion based on its share price at the close of trade last Friday:

    

Tmall and Taobao 

    E-commerce is the company’s bread and butter, the business that Ma launched in 1999 and which out-muscled eBay in China eight years later.

With the click of a finger on the phone or computer, Chinese consumers can buy a wide array of products on the Taobao and Tmall platforms, from clothes to electronics, food, luxury products and more unusual goods, such as the Boeing 747 cargo planes up for auction last year.

E-commerce still accounts for more than 80 per cent of Alibaba’s business, and revenues in the segment surged 61 per cent in May-June.

Active users of its e-commerce marketplaces grew by 17 million in June to reach 634 million, the company said.

Customers can use Alipay, the e-payment app of Alibaba’s affiliate Ant Financial, to pay for the products.

In a sign of its growing global ambitions, Alibaba also has upped its investment in subsidiary Lazada, Southeast Asia’s leading online shopping firm.

The spending surge is motivated by intense competition in China between Alibaba, Internet giant Tencent, e-commerce rival JD.com, and rising upstarts like Pinduoduo for turf in the country’s rich commercial cyber-landscape.

    

Entertainment 

    The company has splurged in the film and entertainment industry, with its Alibaba Pictures unit buying a minority stake in Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners, which owns DreamWorks Pictures, in 2016.

Earlier this year, Alibaba paid $750 million for a stake in the cinema division of Chinese firm Wanda Film, becoming its second largest shareholder.

The company has invested in Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible” blockbuster saga, with the latest instalment dominating the box office in China.

But one of its most recent productions was a monumental flop.

“Asura”, the most expensive Chinese film ever made with a $113 million budget, was pulled from theatres on its opening weekend in July after bringing in a measly $7.3 million.

Alibaba also owns video streaming website Youku, which partnered with Chinese state broadcaster CCTV to show all of the 2018 World Cup games. 

They were watched through 180 million unique devices, including cellphones and TVs, according to the company.

Its revenue from digital media and entertainment rose to $903 million in the most recent quarter, a 46 per cent year-on-year increase.

Cloud computing 

    Alibaba is also betting its future on cloud computing, which brought the company $710 million in revenue in the most recent quarter, a 93 per cent increase.

Its most recent earnings report said Alibaba Cloud’s customers include InterContinental Hotels Group, which is using the technology to provide on-demand room booking for guests in China.

China’s Minsheng Bank adopted a “financial cloud” while the China Communications Construction Group uses the technology to improve its supply chain management.

    

Food and adverts 

    Alibaba is also taking a bite out of China’s growing food delivery industry, which has soared as people order and pay for lunches and dinners via phone apps.

Earlier this year, it completed the acquisition of Chinese food-delivery leader Ele.me in a deal that valued the Shanghai-based start-up at $9.5 billion.

In August, Alibaba teamed up with Starbucks to help the US company face a challenge from China’s Luckin Coffee. Customers are able to by Starbucks drinks via the Ele.me app.

In May, it led a group of investors that paid nearly $1.4 billion for a 10 per cent stake in ZTO Express, an express-delivery company.

Alibaba has also invested in brick-and-mortar retail, including supermarkets, electronic shops and furniture stores.

Alibaba is also investing in advertising. In July, it took a minority stake in Chinese outdoor advertiser Focus Media to expand its ad reach beyond its online platforms. – AFP