Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. (BABA) is often called the "Amazon of China", making reference to the giant American e-commerce company, Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN). Alibaba was founded in 1999 by 18 people led by a former English teacher named Jack Ma, who led the company's meteoric growth for nearly two decades before stepping down as executive chairman in September 2019. The early founders believed that the Internet would be a great leveler, enabling small businesses to leverage innovation and technology in order to grow and compete more effectively in domestic and international markets. Alibaba was born out of that vision and has since grown into a global e-commerce, Internet, and technology company. The company posted net income of $19.8 billion on $72.0 billion of revenue during its 2020 fiscal year (FY), which ended March 31, 2020. Alibaba has a current market capitalization of $554.2 billion.
Alibaba has followed Amazon's example by expanding into businesses that broaden its base of supply hubs. But Alibaba has also borrowed the model of other FAANG technology companies by branching out into various apps and tech services. This growth is reflected in Alibaba's broad array of subsidiaries.
Alibaba's diverse group of tech business lines includes: online retail, such as mobile commerce site Taobao Marketplace and Tmall, a third-party online and mobile commerce platform for brands and retailers; online wholesale, including 1688.com as well as international marketplaces Alibaba.com and AliExpress; logistics services such as Cainiao Network, a logistics data platform and global fulfillment network; consumer services like on-demand delivery and local services platform Ele.me, and restaurant and services guide platform Koubei; cloud computing via Alibaba Cloud; financial services, such as Ant Financial and payment services platform Alipay; and Amap, a mobile digital map that provides navigation and real-time traffic information.
Alibaba has also made major investments in U.S. tech startups, most notably Lyft Inc. (LYFT). Alibaba owns 7.2 million shares of Lyft worth $194.0 million.
Alibaba also has used major acquisitions as vehicles to broaden its footprint. We look at five of the most important acquisitions in more detail below.
Youku Tudou Inc.
- Type of Business: Multi-Screen Entertainment and Media Company
- Acquisition Price: $1.1 billion for 16.5% stake; $4.4 billion for (remaining stake).
- Acquisition Date: May 2014 (16.5% stake); April 2016 (remaining stake).
Youku Todou Inc., a Chinese multi-screen entertainment and media company, was founded in 2003. In 2014, Alibaba purchased $1.1 billion of Class A ordinary shares of Youku, which represented a 16.5% equity interest. At the same time, Yunfeng Fund invested $132 million for an approximately 2% equity interest. In April 2016, Alibaba completed the acquisition of Youku by purchasing all remaining issued and outstanding shares for $4.4 billion. Yunfeng Fund held on to its minority interest.
Youku enables users to search, view and share high-quality video content quickly and easily across multiple devices. This helps Alibaba to generate additional revenue sources through advertising and membership subscriptions. The acquisition appears to be an attempt to displace Netflix Inc. (NFLX) as the go-to source for streaming TV and film content in China.
Alibaba Pictures Group (formerly ChinaVision Media)
- Type of Business: Film Company
- Acquisition Price: $804 million (controlling stake)
- Acquisition Date: June 2014
Alibaba first acquired a controlling interest in Alibaba Pictures Group, formerly known as ChinaVision Media, in June 2014. A financing transaction the following year led to a dilution of Alibaba's stake from a controlling to a minority interest. In March 2019, the company purchased newly issued shares of Alibaba Pictures that increased its equity interest to about 51%. Alibaba Pictures became, once again, a consolidated subsidiary of Alibaba.
Alibaba Pictures is an Internet-driven integrated platform involved in a broad range of entertainment-related activities, including: content production, promotion and distribution, IP licensing and integrated management, cinema ticketing, and data services. The acquisition demonstrates Alibaba's push into both the distribution and production of high-quality entertainment.
South China Morning Post (SCMP)
- Type of Business: English-Language Newspaper
- Acquisition Price: $266 million
- Acquisition Date: April 2016
The South China Morning Post is an English-language newspaper headquartered in Hong Kong and was founded in 1903. In April 2016, Alibaba acquired the media business of SCMP Group Ltd. The acquisition included the newspaper, the group's magazine, recruitment, outdoor media, events and conferences, education, and digital media businesses.
- Type of Business: E-Commerce Platform
- Acquisition Price: $1.0 billion (54% stake)
- Acquisition Date: April 12, 2016
Lazada Group, an e-commerce platform headquartered in Singapore, was founded in 2012. In April 2016, Alibaba purchased a 54% equity interest in Lazada worth $1.0 billion. The subsidiary offers merchants and brands a one-stop marketplace with access to consumers in six Southeast Asian countries with an estimated user base of 200 million: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The deal will bolster Alibaba's e-commerce presence outside of China.
Intime Department Store
- Type of Business: Department Store Operator
- Acquisition Price: $692 million (initial investment); $2.6 billion (74% controlling stake)
- Acquisition Date: July 2014 (initial investment); January 10, 2017 (74% controlling stake).
Intime Department Store, one of China's leading department store chains, was founded in 2005. In 2014, Alibaba invested $692 million in Intime and steadily increased its stake in the company over the next several years. In 2016, Alibaba converted its holdings of convertible debt securities issued by Intime into equity, bringing its stake to 28%. Then in 2017, Alibaba paid $2.6 billion for a controlling interest. Alibaba increased its stake in Intime to 99% in October 2018. Despite starting out as an e-commerce company, Alibaba's acquisition of Intime shows it also sees select brick-and-mortar retail businesses as growth opportunities.