E-commerce giant Alibaba Group said Thursday it has bought a 50 percent stake in China's reigning soccer champions Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club for approximately 1.2 billion yuan, or about $192 million, diversifying its investment portfolio beyond retail and logistics.
Alibaba, which is preparing for an IPO later this year, has embarked on a spending spree of late. so far this year, it has invested in portal Youku, online mapping service Autonavi, film studio Chinavision Media and department store and supermarket operator InTime Retail. Just last week it said it was buying a 10 percent stake in postal service Singapore Post Limited for 312.5 million Singapore dollars, or about $248 million at current exchange.
Several Asian companies have increased their brand reputation and visibility through sports. Japanese companies, including mobile phone service provider SoftBank and e-commerce firm Rakuten, own baseball teams, while a number of Asian companies also sponsor Europe-based soccer clubs.
"It has been a trend for Chinese internet companies to invest in 'physical' businesses recently, mostly brick and mortar," said Andrea Fenn, digital strategy expert at Fireworks, a mainland digital consultancy.
"Hedging investment to avoid a sudden web bubble burst is a reason, but I also think increasingly online businesses realize the importance of merging their activities in the offline world, which is what I call 'post-digital business'. This particularly applies to Alibaba, which is the most 'post-digital' of Chinese Internet giants, in that its impact on offline, traditional retail network has been dramatic," she said.
Zennon Kapron, managing director of financial consultancy Kapronasia, said he believes these diverse investments are all about tapping in to popular middle class pursuits in China, such as sports and movies, as well as growing sectors, including healthcare and education.
"I think Alibaba is looking at what the growth areas in China are going to be. Earlier this week or last week they invested in a hospital, and health is a growing area. [Alibaba chairman and founder] Jack Ma has mentioned before that education, healthcare and entertainment are going to be particular growth areas," Kapron said.
Kapron said he thinks the company is trying to diversify itself in the run up to the IPO.
"With [fellow Chinese e-commerce company] JD.com's recent successful IPO based almost solely on e-commerce. It makes sense for Alibaba to bring a better value proposition to investors," he said.
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
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Not only does #TheProfit return to CNBC tonight, but @marcuslemonis has launched @shopmarcus, a new shopping and lifestyle retail experience in Aspen and Chicago, with more locations to come. The retail stores offer in-store stylists and a variety of contemporary womenswear selections.
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@louisvuitton tapped @therealpeterlindbergh for its latest city-centric photo book, which is part of a series called Fashion Eye. The primarily black and white book captures the spirit of Berlin in 57 images shot between 1989 and 2019. “Berlin is an inspiration for me, more than a city. I mean @millajovovich is simply Berlin!” said Lindbergh. #wwdfashion
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For pre-fall 2018, @etro created richly-colored wonderland, using tapestries, textiles and wallpapers from the Eastern world at large. The line featured floral and graphic prints and jacquard motifs, like this two-piece look featured here. #wwdfashion (📷: Giovanna Pavesi)
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
“I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me,” @ginnygardner says of her new role in @hulu’s “The Runaways.” Gardner plays Karolina Dean, a queer superhero, which is a rarity for @marvel. Read more about Gardner’s character on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @dandoperalski)