Alibaba to Spend $692 Million to Partner With Intime Retail

Mar 31, 2014 5:29 am ET

(Updates with Intime shares falling in second paragraph.)

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. will invest about $692 million in Intime Retail Group Co., owner of department stores and supermarkets, as China’s biggest e- commerce operator integrates online and offline shopping.

Alibaba will buy 220.5 million shares at HK$7.5335 apiece, for a total of HK$1.7 billion ($219 million), and will also subscribe to a HK$3.7 billion convertible bond, the companies said in separate statements today. The equity stake is equivalent to about 9.9 percent of the enlarged company, it said. Intime shares fell the most in more than 17 months.

The two companies will form a venture in China, using shopping malls, department stores and supermarkets to develop an online-to-offline business as Alibaba competes with Tencent Holdings Ltd. and its WeChat instant messaging application. Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu Inc. are acquiring mobile, shopping and entertainment content services as they fight for the attentions of China’s 618 million Internet users.

“By having department stores on the books it will be a lot easier for them to integrate their virtual monopoly,” said Mark Tanner, the founder of China Skinny, a Shanghai-based research and marketing agency. “Alibaba sees WeChat leading the way and they don’t want to fall behind.”

Tmall Inventory

Alibaba’s Tmall.com will have access to Intime’s inventory, broadening the variety of merchandise available, and customers can pick up online orders in Intime stores, according to the companies’ statements.

Shares of Beijing-based Intime fell 7.5 percent in Hong Kong trading, the most since October 2012, compared with a 0.4 percent increase in the benchmark Hang Seng Index. The company has a market capitalization of about $2.16 billion.

Alibaba billionaire founder Jack Ma said in March 2013 his goal is create a delivery network that can reach any place in China within 24 hours. To make that happen, Alibaba joined with five delivery companies and other partners to found Cainiao Internet Technology Ltd.

Alibaba has said Cainiao will invest as much as 100 billion yuan ($16 billion) within eight years to develop and manage a logistics network.

Hangzhou, China-based Alibaba has been on a deal spree as it prepares for a U.S. initial public offering that may value the company at as much as $200 billion.

This month, Alibaba led a $280 million investment in TangoMe Inc., an instant messaging service, while in February it offered to buy the shares in AutoNavi Holdings Ltd. that it didn’t already own in a deal valuing the digital mapping service at about $1.6 billion.