Alibaba Group

For the character from the Arabian folk tale, see Ali Baba.

Coordinates: 30°11′31.12″N 120°11′9.79″E / 30.1919778°N 120.1860528°E / 30.1919778; 120.1860528

Alibaba Group Holding Limited
Type of site
Traded as NYSE: BABA
Founded 4 April 1999 (1999-04-04)
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Headquarters Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Area served Worldwide
Owner Jack Ma (6%)
Founder(s) Jack Ma
Key people
  • Jack Ma (Chairman)
  • Daniel Zhang (CEO)
  • Joseph Tsai (Executive vice-chairman)
Industry Internet
Products E-commerce, Online auction hosting, Online money transfers, mobile commerce
Services Online shopping
Revenue Increase CN¥101.143 billion (2016)[1]
Operating income Increase CN¥29.102 billion (2016)[1]
Net income Increase CN¥71.289 billion (2016)[1]
Total assets Increase CN¥364.450 billion (2016)[1]
Total equity Increase CN¥249.539 billion (2016)[1]
Employees 46,228 (June 2016)[2]
Subsidiaries Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao F.C., Taobao, Tmall, UCWeb, AliExpress
Slogan(s) Global Trade Starts Here
Alibaba Group
Simplified Chinese 阿里巴巴集团
Traditional Chinese 阿里巴巴集團

Alibaba Group Holding Limited (Chinese: 阿里巴巴集团控股有限公司) is a Chinese e-commerce company that provides consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer and business-to-business sales services via web portals. It also provides electronic payment services, a shopping search engine and data-centric cloud computing services. The group began in 1999 when Jack Ma founded the website, a business-to-business portal to connect Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers. In 2012, two of Alibaba's portals handled 1.1 trillion yuan ($170 billion) in sales.[3] Suppliers from other countries are supported (with more stringent checks than for Chinese companies),[4] but the company primarily operates in the People's Republic of China (PRC). At closing time on the date of its initial public offering (IPO), 19 September 2014, Alibaba's market value was US$231 billion.[5] However, the stock has traded down and market cap was about $212 billion at the end of December 2015. It is the world's largest retailer as of April 2016.[6], as well as one of the largest Internet companies.

In September 2013, the company sought an IPO in the United States after a deal could not be reached with Hong Kong regulators.[7] Planning occurred over 12 months before the company's market debut in September 2014, with Reuters Instrument Code "BABA.N". The pricing of the IPO initially raised US$21.8 billion,[5][8] which later increased to US$25 billion, making it the largest IPO in history.[9] Buyers were actually purchasing shares in a Cayman Islands shell corporation, not in the Alibaba group, as China forbids foreign ownership of its companies.[10]

Alibaba's consumer-to-consumer portal Taobao, similar to, features nearly a billion products and is one of the 20 most-visited websites globally. The Group's websites accounted for over 60% of the parcels delivered in China by March 2013,[3] and 80% of the nation's online sales by September 2014.[5] Alipay, an online payment escrow service, accounts for roughly half of all online payment transactions within China.[11]

Alibaba is planning to enter India and was in talks with Snapdeal in September 2014.[12]

Alibaba reported sales of $14.32 billion on China's Singles' Day on 11 November 2015, up 60 percent from 2014,[13][14] In November 2016, the e-commerce giant Alibaba set Singles Day records and generated 120.7 billion CNY (17.79 billion USD) in gross merchandise.[15] Alibaba entered India's e-commerce space with 25% stake in Paytm owner One97.[16]


Founding and Name

The company was founded in Malaysia, and the name came from the character Ali Baba from the Arabian literature One Thousand and One Nights because of its universal appeal.[17] as Ma explained:

"Taobao City", the main corporate campus for Alibaba Group at Xixi, Hangzhou.
Alibaba Binjiang Campus in Hangzhou, headquarters for Alibaba's B2B service.
One day I was in Malaysia in a coffee shop, and I was thinking Alibaba is a good name. And then a waitress came, and I said, "Do you know about Alibaba?" And she said yes. I said, "What do you know about?", and she said, "Open Sesame". And I said, "Yes, this is the name!" Then I went on to the street and found 30 people and asked them, "Do you know Alibaba?" People from India, people from Germany, people from Tokyo and China … they all knew about Alibaba. Alibaba – open sesame. Alibaba is a kind, smart business person, and he helped the village. So … easy to spell, and globally known. Alibaba opens sesame for small- to medium-sized companies. We also registered the name "Alimama", in case someone wants to marry us!"[18][19]

Brick and mortar stores

According to Li Chuan, a senior executive at Alibaba, the company was planning in 2013 to open traditional brick and mortar retail outlets in partnership with Chinese real estate company Dalian Wanda Group.[20] Additionally, Alibaba purchased a 25% stake in Hong Kong-based Intime Retail in early 2014.[21]


On 5 September 2014, the group—in a regulatory filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission—set a US$60- to $66- per-share price range for its scheduled initial public offering (IPO), the final price of which would be determined after an international roadshow to gauge the investor interest in Alibaba shares to shareholders.

On 18 September 2014, Alibaba's IPO priced at US$68, raising US$21.8 billion for the company and investors. Alibaba was the biggest US IPO in history.[22][23]

On 19 September 2014, Alibaba's shares (BABA) began trading on the NYSE at an opening price of $92.70 at 11:55 am EST.

On 22 September 2014, Alibaba's underwriters announced their confirmation that they had exercised a greenshoe option to sell 15% more shares than originally planned, boosting the total amount of the IPO to $25 billion.[9][24]

Company timeline

Companies and affiliated entities, the primary company of Alibaba, is the world's largest online business-to-business trading platform for small businesses.[49]

Founded in Hangzhou in eastern China, has three main services. The company's English language portal handles sales between importers and exporters from more than 240 countries and regions.[31] The Chinese portal was developed for domestic business-to-business trade in China. In addition, offers a transaction-based retail website,, which allows smaller buyers to buy small quantities of goods at wholesale prices. went public at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2007, and was delisted again in 2012.[50]

In 2013, launched a direct channel that is responsible for $30 million in daily transaction value.[51]


AutoNavi is a Chinese map supplier. It has been acquired by Alibaba in 2014.[52] Its online maps can be accessed at


Main article: Taobao

Taobao Marketplace, or Taobao, is China's largest consumer-to-consumer online shopping platform.[53] Founded in 2003, it offers a variety of products for retail sale. In January 2015 it was the second most visited web site in China, according to[54] Taobao's growth was attributed to offering free registration and commission-free transactions using a free third-party payment platform.[55]

Advertising makes up 85 percent of the company's total revenue, allowing it to break even in 2009. Taobao's 2010 profit was estimated to be 1.5 billion yuan (US$235.7 million), only about 0.4 percent of their total sales figure of 400 billion yuan (US$62.9 billion) that year, way below the industry average of 2 percent, according to iResearch estimates.[56]

According to Zhang Yu, the director of Taobao, the number of stores on Taobao with annual sales under 100 thousand yuan increased by 60% between 2011 and 2013. Over the same period, the number of stores with sales between 10 thousand and 1 million yuan increased by 30%, and the number of stores with sales over 1 million yuan increased by 33%.[57] Taobao's total sales (including Tmall) exceeded 1 trillion yuan (USD 160 billion) in 2012. And on 11 November 2012, the biggest online shopping promotion activity, Taobao accomplished 19.1 billion yuan (USD 3.07 billion) sales in one day.[58]

Main article: Tmall was introduced in April 2008 as an online retail platform to complement the Taobao consumer-to-consumer portal and became a separate business in June 2011. As of October 2013 it was the eighth most visited web site in China,[59] offering global brands to an increasingly affluent Chinese consumer base.

Juhuasuan is a group shopping website in China. It was launched by Taobao in March 2010 and became a separate business in October 2011. Juhuasuan offers "flash sales", products that are available only for a fixed time period, which can last from one or two days to a full month. To buy at the discounted price, buyers must purchase the item within that defined time.

eTao was beta-launched by Taobao in October 2010 as a comparison shopping website, and became a separate business in June 2011. It offers search results from most Chinese online shopping platforms,[60] including product searches, sales and coupon searches. Online shoppers can use the site to compare prices from different sellers and identify products to buy. According to the Alibaba Group web site, eTao offers products from Amazon China, Dangdang, Gome, Yihaodian, Nike China and Vancl, as well as Taobao and Tmall.[31]


Launched in 2004, Alipay is a third-party online payment platform with no transaction fees. It also provides an escrow service, in which buyers can verify whether they are happy with goods they have bought before releasing money to the seller.[61] Alibaba Group spun off Alipay in 2010 in a controversial move.[62] According to analyst research report, Alipay has the biggest market share in China with 300 million users and control of just under half of China's online payment market in February 2014.[63] In 2013, Alipay launched a financial product platform called Yu'ebao (余额宝).[64] In 2015, Alibaba announced that they will introduce a system that can be paid by recognizing the owner's face.[65]

Alibaba Cloud (Aliyun)

Alibaba Cloud aims to build a cloud computing service platform, including e-commerce data mining e-commerce data processing, and data customisation. It was established in September 2009 in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of Alibaba Group.[31] It has R&D centres and operators in Hangzhou, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Silicon Valley[66] and Dubai.[67] In July 2014, Alibaba Cloud entered into a partnership deal with Inspur. Alibaba Cloud is the largest high-end cloud computing company in China.[68] In 2009, Alibaba acquired HiChina, the largest domain registration service and web hosting service company in China, and built it into Alibaba Cloud.[69]


Launched in 2010, is an online retail service made up of mostly small Chinese businesses offering products to international online buyers. It is the most visited e-commerce website in Russia.[70]

China Yahoo!

Yahoo! China was launched on September 24, 1999.[71] In October 2005, Alibaba Group formed a strategic partnership with Yahoo! and acquired China Yahoo! (, a Chinese portal that focuses on Internet services like news, email, and search. In April 2013, Alibaba Group announced that, as part of the agreement to buy back the Yahoo! Mail stake, technological support for China Yahoo! Mail service would be suspended and the China Yahoo! Mail account migration would begin. Several options were offered to users to make the transition as smooth as possible, and China Yahoo! users had four months to migrate their accounts to the Aliyun mail service, the Yahoo! Mail service in the United States, or to another third-party e-mail provider of the user's choice.[72] Yahoo! China closed its mail service on 19 August 2013. E-mails sent to Yahoo! China accounts could be forwarded to an Alimail box until 31 December 2014. Users were also allowed to transfer e-mail accounts to or any other e-mail service. It is estimated there are no more than a million users with Yahoo! Mail for China and chances are they also own other e-mail accounts.[73]


In 2004, the company released its own instant messaging software service Aliwangwang for interactions between customer and online sellers. By 2014 Aliwangwang user has reached 50 million, making it the second largest instant messaging tool in China.[74]


In October 2013, the company's chairman Jack Ma announced that the company would no longer use Tencent's messaging application WeChat, and would henceforth promote its own messaging application and service, Laiwang.[75]

Alibaba Pictures

Main article: Alibaba Pictures

In March 2014, Alibaba agreed to acquire a controlling stake in ChinaVision Media Group for $804 million. The two firms announced they would establish a strategic committee for potential future opportunities in online entertainment and other media areas.[76] The company was renamed Alibaba Pictures Group.

Youku Tudou

In April 2014, Alibaba and Yunfeng Capital, a private equity company controlled by Alibaba's founder, Jack Ma, agreed to acquire a combined 18.5 percent stake in Youku Tudou, which broadcasts a series of popular television programs and other videos over the Internet.[77]

11 Main

On 11 June 2014, Alibaba launched US shopping site 11 Main. The 11 Main marketplace hosts more than 1,000 merchants in categories such as clothing, fashion accessories and jewellery as well as interior goods and arts and crafts and it plans to keep adding more, the company said.[78][79] On 23 June 2015, Alibaba announced that it is selling 11 Main to OpenSky, an online-marketplace operator based in New York.[80]

Alibaba Group R&D institute

Alibaba introduced the Alibaba Group R&D institute in 2008. One year later, Alibaba filed around 350 patent and utility model applications.[81]


Alibaba completed the purchase of Xiami (Chinese: 虾米; pinyin: Xiā Mǐ), the online music service provider, for an undisclosed sum. Taobao has since launched a service allowing customers to listen to music while shopping.[82]

Alibaba has completed the acquisition of this domestic crowdsourcing translation platform to solve the language barrier problem encountered for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to participate in cross-border e-commerce.[83] [84]

South China Morning Post

In December 2015, Alibaba agreed to a deal to acquire the South China Morning Post and other media assets belonging to the group for a consideration of $266 million. Although Alibaba promised editorial independence, vice-chairman Joseph Tsai said that Alibaba believes that "the world needs a plurality of views when it comes to China coverage. China's rise as an economic power and its importance to world stability is too important for there to be a singular thesis."[85] The acquisition attracted media concerns over what this would mean for the newspaper’s coverage.[86]

Ali Health

Alibaba's flagship health-care unit. Ali Health was launched in 2014 when Alibaba and Yunfeng Capital, a private equity firm, bought a 54% stake in Citic 21CN. It positions itself as a pharmaceutical e-commerce business and medical services. In April 2015, the group also reached an agreement to transfer its online B2C pharmacy, Tmall Medical (, to Ali Health. The integration provides consumers the widest range of pharmaceutical and health products available in China.[87]


UCWeb is a Chinese leading provider of mobile internet software technology and services. Since its inception in 2004, UCWeb's mission has been to provide better mobile internet experience to billions of users around the world. Its international product portfolio includes a mobile browsing service (UC Browser), app and game distribution platforms (9Apps and 9Game), a mobile traffic platform (UC Union) among others.[88] It can be accessed at


Lazada Group is a Singaporean e-commerce company founded by Rocket Internet in 2011. Lazada operates sites in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Its sites launched in March 2012, with a business model of selling inventory to customers from its own warehouses. In 2013 it added a marketplace model that allowed third-party retailers to sell their products through Lazada's site. Lazada features a wide product offering in categories ranging from consumer electronics to household goods, toys, fashion and sports equipment. In April 2016, Alibaba Group announced that it intended to acquire a controlling interest in Lazada by paying $500 million for new shares and buying $500M worth of shares from existing investors.[89]

Corporate governance

Jack Ma was Alibaba Group's chief executive officer for its first 10 years, but stepped down as CEO on 10 May 2013, becoming executive chairman.[90][91] Jonathan Lu became the company's new CEO.[92]

On 10 May 2015 Daniel Zhang replaced Lu as CEO.[93]


Gold Supplier membership offers a paid Gold Supplier membership to try to ensure that each seller is genuine; sellers' Gold Supplier status and the number of years it has been held are displayed.[94] The supplier verification types and checks are listed on's Web site, with more stringent checks for sellers outside China.[4] While the majority of suppliers are reported to be genuine, there have been many cases of sellers, some with Gold Supplier status, seeking to defraud unsuspecting buyers.[95] In February 2011, controversy ensued when Alibaba's corporate office admitted that it had granted the mark of integrity of its "China Gold Supplier" program to more than 2,000 dealers that had subsequently defrauded buyers; the firm's share price dropped "abruptly" after the announcement.[96] A statement from the firm reported that Yan Limin, the general manager of at the time, had been dismissed in March for "misconduct"; Phil Muncaster of UK's The Register additionally reported that "a further 28 employees had been involved in dodgy dealings".[97]

As the Economist noted, the company's response has conflicting components: Alibaba's promulgated view that its corrective actions indicate its commitment to quality and integrity (where it contrasts itself with other scandal-associated Chinese business sectors), versus a damage control view suggesting that the subscription-driven, third-party verified "China Gold Supplier" program was endangered by diminished trust in its endorsement system, removing the incentive for global buyers to choose Alibaba as their business-to-business service, thus more broadly endangering Alibaba through impact on its brand and capabilities (the latter via the "defenestration of senior people").[96] The scandal is said to have placed the head of Alibaba Group, Jack Ma—who is described as having been furious over the scandal—in a position to personally fight to win back trust.[98]

Uranium sales

In May 2012, a US law enforcement agent posing as an American broker representing persons in Iran posted an advertisement on seeking to purchase uranium. In August 2013, Patrick Campbell of Sierra Leone was arrested at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Samples of raw uranium ore were allegedly found concealed in the soles of his shoes. Campbell was accused of seeking to arrange the export of 1,000 tonnes of yellowcake from Sierra Leone to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, packed in drums and disguised as the mineral chromite.[99] It was later determined that the samples contained an insignificant amount of uranium, and Campbell was acquitted at trial.[100]

See also


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