Alibaba pushes into US

SHANGHAI - Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is planning an e-commerce push into the United States with a new website as the country's largest electronic vendor prioritizes a potential listing in overseas capital markets.

Alibaba, through US-based subsidiaries Vendio and Auctiva, will unveil an online retail store, 11, the company confirmed late on Tuesday.

The virtual marketplace under construction will feature technology items, jewelry and fashion goods, whose sellers are "handpicked" shop owners.

It did not specify whether the site will follow the example of that targets intra-entrepreneur businesses, or feature a Tmall-like business-to-customer site.

"Alibaba is happy to support 11 Main," according to an e-mailed reply to China Daily on Wednesday.

"Alibaba is run by entrepreneurs and firmly believes in supporting entrepreneurs with great vision and a strong sense of mission for their companies."

According to Alibaba, the decision to tap into boutique e-commerce was generated by Vendio and Auctiva, two firms acquired by the group's business-to-business unit in 2010.

Both software providers enable small and medium-sized enterprises to sell inventory across online channels as well as mobile devices.

The acquisition has helped draw more US companies to Alibaba's trade matchmaking services and offer an alternative channel on which its existing customers can sell products online.

The move marks the latest overseas expansion by Alibaba, which acquired a minority stake in US online vendor ShopRunner Inc last August.

Alibaba's Tmall sold products worth 35 billion yuan (S$7.30billion) in the Nov 11 promotional gala, including overseas destinations such as the United States and Southeast Asian nations.

It also rolled out a direct procurement platform, known as AliSourcePro for small-scale buyers and sellers overseas, said Qi Junsheng, business director of the international department of the company's business-to-business unit.

The platform facilitates both parties by providing a bulletin board with which buyers can state their requirements explicitly. It helps screen the vendors and recommends viable merchants to the buyers.

On average, the new system lowers the transaction duration to 48 hours, thereby significantly cutting time and labour costs.

Alibaba has more than 7.2 million registered members in Europe, including more than 1.6 million in the UK, 420,000 in Germany and 495,000 in France, said James Hardy, Europe, Middle East and Africa director of Alibaba, in August.

While its presence in the US can be traced back to almost a decade ago, recent acquisitions might help fuel its business penetration of the local market, said Zhang Jing, an analyst of digital commerce with consultancy iResearch.

"It aims to grab a seat in a market where the e-commerce landscape is mature, and forerunners such as Amazon Inc and eBay Inc compete fiercely," said Zhang.