Alibaba includes smart TVs in roster

Updated: 2013-07-24 07:20

By Gao Yuan (China Daily)

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Alibaba Group Holding Ltd on Tuesday added the smart television sector to its markets-to-conquer list amid speculation that the e-commerce giant plans a $100 billion initial public offering in Hong Kong this autumn.

The Hangzhou-based company said it will launch a gesture-controlled set box in the coming months. The product will bring online payment and video game downloading services to TVs.

Teaming up with online video provider Wasu Digital Television Media Group, the gadget will be Alibaba's first release in the smart TV sector.

"The set box will help us to create a brand new ecosystem in the TV industry where hardware manufacturers, content providers and app developers work together to bring high-level services to viewers," said Yu Ce, vice-president of Alibaba.

"After some failed attempts to replicate its business model from the personal computer end to the mobile end, Alibaba needs a bigger screen to improve customers' shopping experience," said Wang Jun, an analyst at research firm Analysys International.

TV will be the next battleground for e-commerce websites because it is a ideal platform for item display, according to Wang.

Alibaba's smart TV strategy comes amid widespread speculation about its IPO. Wang said launching a new strategy may help Alibaba to get a higher valuation from the capital markets.

A Hong Kong newspaper, the Oriental Daily News, reported on Tuesday that Alibaba has submitted listing documents to the Hong Kong stock exchange aiming to raise $20 billion. The newspaper did not give a source for the report.

Alibaba may use $7 billion to repurchase shares from Yahoo Inc after the IPO, said the Hong Kong paper, adding that the shares of Alibaba will be ready for trade in October.

"I've no idea what the newspaper was talking about," Alibaba CEO Jonathan Luk told China Daily in response to the report. "We are following our own plan when it comes to an IPO date."

Alibaba accelerated its business expansion over the past six months, paving the way for a public offering that may exceed $100 billion.

The company invested in popular tourism website earlier this month to raise its profile in the thriving outbound tourism sector. The amount of the investment was unclear.

In mid-June, Alipay, the online payment arm of Alibaba, launched the nation's first Internet-based investment fund aimed at online shoppers.

The fund raised more than 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) in the first month after launch.

In April, the company spent $586 million for an 18 percent stake in Sina Weibo, a popular micro blogging platform in China.

Boosted by growing businesses on many fronts, the company's earnings nearly tripled in the first quarter, said its major shareholder, Yahoo, on July 17. Yahoo owns about 24 percent of Alibaba's shares.

(China Daily USA 07/24/2013 page16)