What you need to know about China's internet giant Alibaba

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 13 2014 02:39 PM | Updated as of Jun 13 2014 10:40 PM

BEIJING - Chinese Internet giant Alibaba, which combines aspects of eBay, Amazon and PayPal, launched a US shopping website, 11 Main, on Wednesday -- its latest move ahead of a widely anticipated IPO.

Alibaba has filed documents for a US stock listing, expected to be one of the largest offerings in history.

Here is a fact-file about the e-commerce titan, founded by Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma.

FOUNDING: Alibaba Group was founded in 1999 by 18 people led by Jack Ma.

WHY ALIBABA?: Ma chose the name because it is "easily pronounced in practically all languages" and because the "open sesame" catchphrase from 1,001 Nights signifies that the company's platforms "open a doorway to fortune for small businesses", the company's website says.

A total of 20,000 people are employed by Alibaba, which has its headquarters in Hangzhou, Ma's home town in China's eastern province of Zhejiang. The company has 73 offices in mainland China and 16 overseas.

Taobao.com, China's most popular online consumer marketplace, and TMall.com, a website for business-to-consumer transactions, are among several online platforms which operate within the Alibaba structure. It also has a payment unit, Alipay, which is not included within the IPO vehicle.

CUSTOMERS: Taobao has more than 800 million product listings and over 500 million registered users. It is estimated to have more than 90 percent of China's online consumer-to-consumer market.

THE MARKET: China's online shoppers spent nearly 1.26 trillion yuan ($200 billion) in 2012, up 66.5 percent from the previous year, the semi-official China Internet Network Information Centre said in an April 2013 report.

Its launch of an American shopping site, 11 Main, potentially opens the door to a far wider global audience.

ACQUISITIONS: Alibaba has been on a deal-making frenzy ahead of its planned multi-billion dollar share offer in the United States.

Its purchase of Chinese mobile browser developer UCWeb for an undisclosed sum comes after it paid $192 million for a 50 percent stake in top Chinese football club Evergrande earlier in June.

In May, it paid $249 million for a stake in Singapore postal service Singapore Post to boost its logistics and delivery operations.

It has also made forays into entertainment, paying $1.22 billion for a stake in top Chinese online video platform Youku Tudou in April and acquiring Hong Kong-listed ChinaVision Media Group in March.

China has the world's biggest online population and its annual online sales are forecast to reach between $420 billion and $650 billion by 2020. By then it will be the world's largest online retail market, consulting firm McKinsey estimates.

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