Alibaba invests in high-end US website

Updated: 2014-01-28 11:13

By Amy He in New York (China Daily USA)

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Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group made a $15 million investment in US luxury e-commerce site, which targets buyers of high-end art and design.

New York-based, founded in 2001, received $15 million in Series C funding from Alibaba, though it was not expecting to receive the funding, according to tech analysis news site Recode. The website links shoppers with more than a thousand dealers of high-ticket items - including vintage furniture, estate jewelry and antiques - and opened a bricks-and-mortar store in 2011 at the New York Design Center in Midtown Manhattan.

1stdibs is backed by investment firm Benchmark Capital and previously raised $42 million in Series B funding from Index Ventures and Spark Capital at the end of 2012.

David Rosenblatt, CEO of 1stdibs, said that Alibaba provided the company a "global marketplace", and told Recode that one-third of 1stdibs' business is now done outside the US. "In the long run, China and, by extension, Asia should be the biggest market in the world," he said.

1stdibs has no plans for operations in China since most of its Chinese customers are individual buyers, but the company will rely on Alibaba's experience with the Chinese market, Rosenblatt said.

"We are well capitalized, but we need the expertise and experience they bring," he added. Calls for comment from 1stdibs were not immediately returned.

Alibaba's investment comes as its plans for a widely anticipated public offering have yet to produce a listing. Industry analysts had speculated about a possible IPO by the Hangzhou-based company in the middle of last year, with others expecting a listing by year's end.

For months, media outlets reported that Alibaba was deciding between listing on either the Hong Kong or New York exchanges, with no official announcements from the company.

In December, the company delayed the IPO further after extending an $8 billion loan - originally set to expire this month - to the end of 2014, signaling that the listing may still be a long way off, according to industry analysts.

Alibaba, founded in 1999, is the world's largest online retailer, offering features similar to those of Amazon and Ebay. According to an earnings report from Yahoo, which owns a 24 percent stake in Alibaba, the Chinese company's revenue for the second quarter of 2013 was $1.74 billion, up 61 percent year on year. Its net profit for the quarter skyrocketed to $707 million from $273 million for the same period the previous year.

The bulk of the company's business comes from its Taobao platform, where small business merchants sell items and often pay Alibaba to advertise their goods on the site.

(China Daily USA 01/28/2014 page2)