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Alibaba Pledges Overseas E-Commerce Focus as Its China Growth Slows

Alibaba office building. Shutterstock.
Alibaba office building. Shutterstock. (Shutterstock)

China’s Alibaba told its investors on Friday that overseas e-commerce would be a key focus as it looks for new sources of growth after a difficult year at home.

Earlier this month, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd restructured its e-commerce business into separate China and international divisions, with the latter to be led by Jiang Fan, head of Alibaba’s flagship Taobao and Tmall marketplaces

Alibaba Deputy chief financial officer Toby Xu, making his first major public remarks since being named this month to take over as CFO, said that international e-commerce “will become one of the key growth drivers”, adding that 57 percent of revenue for Cainiao, Alibaba’s logistics unit, comes from overseas.

Earlier in the two-day investor event, Alibaba said it had set a target of $100 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) for Lazada, its e-commerce service for Southeast Asia.

Lazada generated $21 billion in GMV from September 2020 to the same month in 2021, the presentation showed.

Outgoing CFO Maggie Wu said that Alibaba would include international commerce under Alibaba’s larger “Core Commerce” financial segment in earnings, alongside commerce from its domestic facing marketplaces.

Local consumer services, which includes delivery and mapping services, and Cainiao will also fall within this category.

There was also a nod to social welfare, with four of seven investment categories outlined by Xu related to initiatives such as rural revitalisation and China’s ageing population.

Chief executive officer Daniel Zhang, meanwhile, pledged to slash emissions from Alibaba’s supply chains and transportation networks by 50 percent by the end of the decade.

Missing from the presentation was any mention of Ant Group, the financial services firm that is 33 percent owned by Alibaba.

Last year, Beijing intervened at the last minute to abort a planned $37 billion listing of Ant. Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma subsequently slipped from the public spotlight and Chinese authorities began a year-long regulatory clampdown.

In November, Alibaba slashed its annual revenue forecast for its current fiscal year, from an initial growth target of 29.5 percent to between 20 percent and 23 percent.

The company has been facing stiff competition from rivals including Pinduoduo Inc, which has won over consumers in rural China, and ByteDance-owned Douyin, which has grown in China’s booming livestreamed e-commerce sector.

By Josh Horwitz; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Alexander Smith

Learn more:

Alibaba Targets $100 Billion Southeast Asian Commerce Business

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has unveiled ambitious objectives for its Southeast Asian arm Lazada, accelerating an overseas expansion to offset Chinese economic and regulatory headwinds.

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