Online retailer Alibaba eyes markets outside China

HANGZHOU, China - China's online retail giant Alibaba aims to expand beyond its home market by targeting overseas Chinese through its flagship e-commerce website Taobao, an executive said Friday.

Taobao is China's most popular e-shopping platform, and has more than 90 per cent of the online market for consumer-to-consumer transactions in the country. It had more than 800 million product listings and over 500 million registered users as of last year.

"We hope to provide services to markets of overseas Chinese consumers first so we can have the experience and ability to further promote Taobao in other markets of non-Chinese consumers," said Daphne Lee, director of overseas business for Taobao.

Such a move could eventually make Taobao, which marks its 10th anniversary Friday, a threat to US giants eBay and Amazon.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma was moving aside as chief executive officer Friday, handing over the job to executive vice president Lu Zhaoxi, though he will remain as chairman to provide strategic direction.

Lee told a news conference that Taobao, which launched its overseas business last year, is still only present in four places outside mainland China: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.

But she dismissed the possibility of a near-term launch for an English interface which would make Taobao more accessible to foreign users.

"Overseas business is just like a new-born baby compared with the 10-year development of Taobao," Lee said.

Taobao earlier this week launched a designated website for Hong Kong, where it already has 1.4 million registered users.

At the end of last year, registered users exceeded 600,000 in Taiwan and reached around 500,000 for Singapore and Malaysia combined, Lee said.

Taobao is expected to be part of the listing vehicle for an expected initial public offer by Alibaba, which analysts say could value the group at between US$60 billion (S$74 billion) and US$100 billion, prompting comparisons with Facebook's blockbuster IPO.

Become a fan on Facebook