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.
@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)
@heriethpaul and @gracebol have a moment on the @victoriassecret fashion show 2017. See every look from the runway on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo) #wwdfashion #victoriassecret #VSFashionShow
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia