Alibaba’s Ma to Take $532 Million Stake in Software Company

Apr 03, 2014 2:28 am ET

(Updates with analyst comment in fourth paragraph.)

April 3 (Bloomberg) -- A company controlled by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Chairman Jack Ma will pay 3.3 billion yuan ($532 million) to become the largest shareholder of financial software company Hundsun Technologies Inc.

Zhejiang Rongxin, which is 99.1 percent controlled by Ma, purchased all of Hundsun Technologies Group, which owns a 20.6 percent stake in the listed Hundsun Technologies Inc., according to a filing with the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Shares of Hangzhou-based Hundsun have been suspended since March 17.

Alibaba is investing in companies in the U.S. and China as it prepares to file for an initial public offering in New York as soon as this month. China’s largest e-commerce company yesterday announced it kicked money into a $250 million funding round for the ride-sharing application developer Lyft Inc., and last month it led a $280 million investment in TangoMe Inc., a messaging application.

“It is clear that investing and finance are high on his agenda,” Mark Tanner, Managing Director at China Skinny, a Shanghai-based research and marketing agency, said of Ma. “Both the IP and data he will obtain from the acquisition of Hundsun Technologies will further enhance his analysis for finance and credit.”

Hundsun, founded by eight engineers in 1995, works with clients in government and in the finance, transportation and education industries, according to its website. Its businesses include software to facilitate online payments, which Alibaba handles through its affiliate Alipay, and to help business-to- consumer websites, which would include Alibaba’s Tmall.com.

Alibaba Dealmaking

Florence Shih, a spokeswoman for Alibaba, declined to comment on Ma’s investment.

Alipay also has an Internet financing business called Yu’E Bao that has drawn deposits from 81 million customers as they chase returns higher than what China’s banks offer.

Last month, Alibaba said it would 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. 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. for the attentions of China’s 618 million Internet users.

In October, Alibaba led a $206 million investment in ShopRunner, a subscription service similar to Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime plan that offers two-day shipping from major U.S. retailers, as well as a $50 million investment in Quixey Inc., a search engine for mobile apps.

The deals come as Alibaba prepares for an IPO that may value the company at as much as $200 billion as it capitalizes on China’s emergence as an economic superpower. McKinsey & Co. estimates China’s Internet retail market will triple to $395 billion from 2011 to 2015.

Alibaba, which operates online markets for products from frozen chicken feet to an Airbus A320 passenger plane, posted its fourth straight quarterly profit on surging sales.

--With assistance from Aaron Clark in Tokyo.