Best Inc., a 10-year-old logistics company focused on retailers and e-commerce, is hoping to raise up to $750 million with an initial public offering in the U.S.
The company is backed by Alibaba Investment Ltd., which will continue to own a sizable portion of the company, but the exact amount is unclear from preliminary prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The massive e-tail marketplace currently owns a roughly 23 percent stake.
Johnny Chou, a former Google president in China also known by his Chinese name Zhou Shaoning, launched Best in 2007 and the company’s avowed goal is to enable “new retail” by offering a “seamless integration of online and offline retail to offer a consumer-centric, omnichannel and global shopping experience.”
Best includes a “smart supply chain” cloud platform that enables its program to manage not only a retailer’s supply chain, but also express delivery, freight, merchandise sourcing, cross-border supply chain, last-mile delivery, financial and value-added services, according to the prospectus.
During 2016, Best pulled in 8.8 billion yuan and measured a 70 percent compound annual growth rate from 2014. The company also last year fulfilled 121 million orders and counted more than 257,000 stores as service members at the end of March.
While the company employs all of the tech du jour, like data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and mobile technology, in order to efficiently manage supply chains for retailers, Best characterized itself as “asset-light.”
“We lease facilities used in our operations and work with third-party service providers to meet our transportation needs,” Best said in its prospectus. “Our hybrid business model allows us to optimize the levels of self-operated and franchised assets to ensure the right balance of scalability and control, and allows us to expand cost-effectively.”
Growth through a U.S. IPO will also enable Best to add more members and service providers to its “ecosystem,” which will extend its global reach and further drive “network density and overall efficiency.”
Best noted that large e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Alibaba rival JD.com operate their own supply chain service platforms, but said “many merchants prefer independent third-party smart supply chain service providers to support their operations.”
The company also pointed out that the retail industry in its home base of China is shifting from supply to demand as its middle class continues to grow and consumers are demanding more access to overseas brands and retailers.
Alibaba chairman and founder Jack Ma’s vision of retail seems in line with Best’s goals. Ma said during a recent conference focused on small U.S. business and China that “global buy and global sell will happen in the next 10 years.”
He added that after retail becomes a truly global, when someone in the U.S. orders a coconut from Thailand, be it through Alibaba or elsewhere, they’ll receive it within 72 hours.
If Best has its way, it’ll make sure that coconut arrives.
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