Lessons from Alibaba’s World

Jack-Ma-Alibaba-IPOThe last few years have seen Alibaba, the Chinese tech and e-commerce juggernaut, go from being a shaky, unknown start-up to something of a household name from Detroit to Delhi. At some point along its path to success, the company has also become one of the world’s favourite success stories. It’s a rags-to-riches tale of sorts, and it doesn’t hurt that the lead character in the story, CEO Jack Ma, is widely considered “one of China’s most unlikely tech founders”. After all, everyone loves an underdog.  Continue reading

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Alibaba and the elephant in the room

Alibaba peopleAlibaba, Alibaba: it’s a word that’s increasingly on people’s lips. Certainly, it’s a pleasing name: playful to pronounce and universally recognisable, evoking something at once known and foreign.

But, beyond talking about the Chinese e-commerce giant’s IPO (which claimed the title of largest global IPO ever) and how successful the start-up from southern China has been, we hear far less said about why. Continue reading

WeBank: China’s first online-only bank

Chinese Yuan

“It’s one small step for WeBank, one giant step for financial reform” said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after the launch of the country’s first online-only bank, a joint venture headed by Tencent Holdings Limited, best-known outside China for its popular instant messaging and social networking app, WeChat. WeBank is the first private bank to pilot online operations after becoming one of six institutions that were granted licences to do so last year.

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Accusations over Alibaba’s political ties debunked

An article in The New York Times has drawn unwanted attention to the Alibaba Group and the “deep political connections” of some of its Chinese investors, shortly before the giant e-commerce goes public in the United States. The company filed for an IPO on 6 May, disclosing the owners of approximately 70 percent of its shares, among them Yahoo and Alibaba’s chairman, Jack Ma.

But less is known about other shareholders, whose sway may be significant even if their stakes are not. The situation raises questions about the transparency and operations of Alibaba, which is set to go public in the United States in the coming months.

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