Alibaba launches US site


11 Main, AlibabaChina’s e-commerce giant Alibaba has launched an American shopping website, a report says, as the company continues a deal binge ahead of a widely anticipated US listing.

The online marketplace 11 Main, which hosts more than 1000 merchants selling products ranging from clothing and interior goods to arts and crafts, will help Alibaba compete with Amazon and eBay.

The company plans to add other sales categories, charge as little as half the commission of other venues at 3.5 per cent, and screen merchants for the quality of their goods and service.

“Of course we would love to be an everyday shopping destination,” 11 Main president, Mike Effle, said.

Still it is joining a crowded landscape with big players like Amazon, startups such as Etsy and traditional retailers with an online presence like Walmart.

Separately, Alibaba announced its third deal in a week on Wednesday, saying it will absorb mobile browser developer UCWeb in what it called the “biggest” merger in the country’s internet industry.

The firm has stepped up acquisitions to expand beyond its traditional online shopping business ahead of a planned US listing that could raise around $US15 billion ($A16.23 billion), putting it on a par with Facebook’s $US16 billion IPO in 2012.

On Tuesday, the company unveiled an agreement with state backed Shanghai Media Group to develop an entertainment platform and last Thursday said it will pay $US192 million for a 50 per cent stake in China’s top football club, Evergrande.

Alibaba will take the one third stake in UCWeb that it does not already own, it said in a statement.

“UC will be fully integrated into Alibaba Group. This integration will be the biggest merger in the history of China’s internet industry,” Alibaba said, but gave no value for the deal.

UCWeb CEO, Yu Yongfu, said the deal would value his company at more than $US1.9 billion, according to a company memo posted online.

He compared the transaction to a move last year in which China’s most popular search engine Baidu fully acquired smartphone app company 91 Wireless Websoft for that amount, showed the memo. A company spokesman confirmed its authenticity.

Alibaba said it would settle the deal through a combined cash and stock swap transaction.

The deal would draw more mobile device users to Alibaba platforms, which have lost out to more nimble competitors, analysts said.

“Alibaba is experiencing a drop in traffic on both personal computers and mobile devices, while its source of traffic has been unstable. So it’s acquiring (UCWeb) to ensure traffic inflow,” said Zhuo Saijun, an analyst at Beijing based consultancy Analysys International.

Founded in 2004, UCWeb is a mobile internet software and services provider based in the southern city of Guangzhou, which claims 500 million quarterly active users worldwide for its flagship browser.



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