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From: Glenn Petersen5/25/2017 11:30:45 PM
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Alibaba to Lead $1 Billion Funding for Chinese Food Startup

by Lulu Yilun Chen
May 25, 2017

-- said to be valued at $5.5 billion to $6 billion

-- The Chinese food delivery service competes with Meituan

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and its financial services affiliate plan to lead an investment round of at least $1 billion in, one of the largest players in a crowded Chinese food-delivery service arena, people familiar with the matter say.

The financing from Alibaba and Ant Financial will value at $5.5 billion to $6 billion and help it compete with a rival service backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., the people said, requesting not to be named because the matter is private.

Once completed, the deal would mark the country’s second-largest startup fundraising effort so far in 2017, surpassed only by ride-sharing giant Didi Chuxing’s $5.5 billion round. Alibaba is vying for supremacy with the Tencent-backed startup, Meituan Dianping, in a local services industry primed for growth as people turn to their smartphones or the web to order food, schedule beauty treatments and hire domestic helpers. Sales of such services are expected to reach 7.28 trillion yuan ($1.1 trillion) this year.

The funding for underscores how venture-capital flow in China remains resilient despite the nation’s economic slowdown: startup investments surged 40 percent to $6 billion in the first quarter, CB Insights estimates.

While meal-delivery businesses around the world have struggled for profits, China’s two largest Internet companies see on-demand services as a way to promote their lucrative online payments services. Growth in domestic food and restaurant transactions also outstrips many other retail segments in the world’s second largest economy. Alibaba is already the biggest shareholder of, which it uses to complement a separate service called Koubei that provides restaurant bookings and spa treatments.

Now, Tencent too intends to ramp up investment to catch its rival. It currently holds only a minor stake in after a $1.25 billion fundraising from Alibaba and Ant Financial in April 2016 diluted its holdings. The company, valued at about $4.5 billion at the time, had discussed a merger with Meituan -- one of Tencent’s largest investments in the market -- but talks fell apart, people familiar with the matter have said.

Tencent is now “putting up quite a big initiative around the restaurant vertical” to propel WeChat Pay, President Martin Lau told analysts on a post-earnings conference call in May. It had lost market share in restaurants but is “putting aside a pretty good budget to get back on the competition front.”

Guo Guangdong, a spokesman for, and Alibaba declined to comment. Ant Financial didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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From: Intelim5/28/2017 4:37:32 PM
   of 625
Why Alibaba's Founder Jack Ma Thinks You Will Eventually Only Work Four Hours a Day

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From: Glenn Petersen6/5/2017 11:53:42 AM
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What Spat Between 2 of China’s Richest Men Means for Alibaba and SF Express

By Daniel Shane
June 4, 2017 10:23 p.m. ET

What does a falling out between two of China’s richest men mean for investors in Alibaba ( BABA) and SF Express ( 002352.CN)?

Bloomberg reported late last week that Alibaba founder, and the Middle Kingdom’s richest businessman, Jack Ma had gone toe-to-toe with logistics billionaire Wang Wei over a dispute surrounding data sharing. SF Express is a major logistics partner of ecommerce giant Alibaba, and its services are used to deliver goods ordered online the length and breadth of China’s vast expanses.

However, the dispute relates to Cainiao Network, a vast data platform and Alibaba affiliate that at its core connects Alibaba merchants with delivery companies. The two are arguing about how much data each gets access to via the platform. This data is seen as vital as it provides crucial insights into the online shopping habits of Chinese consumers. Alibaba requested more data from SF Express which was declined. In retaliation, Alibaba removed SF Express as a delivery option from its site. Alibaba owns by far the biggest stake in Cainiao Network, but a number of logistics companies including SF Express are also small investors.

Smartkarma analyst Daniel Hellberg says the falling out reflects the changing nature of the relationship between Alibaba and its logistics partners. This is partly down to an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission into Cainaio Network’s accounting first announced last year.

This could eventually result in BABA being forced to consolidate CN's financial results; this threat is likely pushing CN to speed up its march to profitability.
This could mean that Cainaio Network needs to find better ways to monetize its data trove, Hellberg reckons:

CN has made it clear that it wishes to better monetize the massive amounts of data it collects on merchants, customers, and their shipping habits. CN could begin charging transportation service providers (like the express companies) a small fee for using CN-controlled data to optimize routes and plan for seasonal changes in demand. Payments would be based on the volume of data (or parcels) handled.
In terms of what this means for specific stocks, any move to push Cainaio Network into profitability quicker could be good news for earnings at Alibaba. Getting logistics companies to pony up for more data access will be bad news for them:

Whether the express companies end up paying higher fees to CN, or shouldering a greater portion of CN's capex needs, we believe the changes we have outlined will ultimately result in lower returns for the express companies. The changes should also reduce losses at CN, and that in turn should aid BABA's profitability, though the impact of these changes may not be noticeable given BABA's immense scale.
Alibaba shares are up 40% year-to-date. Shares in SF Express's holding company are up 30%.

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From: Krigannie6/8/2017 6:21:05 AM
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Alibaba forecasts monster revenue growth

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From: Sr K6/8/2017 8:31:36 AM
1 Recommendation   of 625

6:56 am Alibaba: At investor day guides FY18 revenue +45-49% - Barrons ( BABA) :

Shares of Alibaba are trading up 11% in pre-market trading at $139.57/share.

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From: Glenn Petersen6/13/2017 11:44:25 PM
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h/t Sr K

10:14 am Yahoo! completes sale of its operating business to Verizon ( VZ) for $4,475,800,000, subject to certain pre-closing and post-closing adjustments as provided in the underlying definitive stock purchase agreement ( YHOO) :
  • Following the sale, the Company's remaining assets consist of an approximately 15% equity stake in Alibaba Group Holding Limited; an approximately 36% equity stake in Yahoo Japan Corporation; cash, cash equivalents and marketable debt securities; certain minority investments; and Excalibur IP, LLC, which owns certain patent assets that were not core to Yahoo's operating business. Its retained liabilities include the Company's 0.00% convertible senior notes due 2018; shareholder litigation; and certain liabilities relating to data breaches incurred by Yahoo.
  • The Company's headquarters have been relocated to New York City.The Company's common stock will continue to trade on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol "YHOO" through June 16, 2017. Beginning on June 19, 2017, shares of common stock of Altaba Inc. will begin trading under the ticker symbol "AABA".
  • As previously announced, on June 16, 2017, the Company will change its name to "Altaba Inc."

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From: Glenn Petersen6/14/2017 12:16:55 PM
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At Alibaba's annual investor day, China's richest man outlined a vision where the company he founded could become the world's fifth-biggest economy by 2036, trailing only the U.S., China, Europe and Japan. Let's just say most entrepreneurs in China wouldn't make that comparison.

Jack Ma's Libertarian Talk Approaches Red Line

Is Alibaba's founder playing with fire or toeing the line?

by Lulu Yilun Chen
June 14, 2017

Jack Ma, billionaire and chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., gestures as he speaks during a panel session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017.
Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Corporate executives sometime like to talk about how their companies are overtaking nation states. In China, they tend to be careful not to outshine the government and avoid such analogies. Yet that's just what Jack Ma did last week.

At Alibaba's annual investor day, China's richest man outlined a vision where the company he founded could become the world's fifth-biggest economy by 2036, trailing only the U.S., China, Europe and Japan. Let's just say most entrepreneurs in China wouldn't make that comparison.

"Well, people say, this is too big," Ma said of the scale of Alibaba's ambition. "It costs nothing to imagine, right?"

Many shrugged the comments off as bluster from a man prone to making grand pronouncements. Ma based his prediction on the number of goods transacted on his platforms and the potential number of customers. And Alibaba's $23.5 billion in revenue last year was still dwarfed by Alphabet's $90 billion and Amazon’s $136 billion. In Ma's own words, the Chinese e-commerce giant is still just "a baby."

Yet in Hangzhou, in front of thousands of global investors, Ma planted the flag and claimed that his company would one day become one of the world's most powerful economies by serving 2 billion people and helping 10 million small businesses trade freely on the web. On the face of it, the declaration encapsulates the libertarian dream of empowering individuals and transcending borders. Ma has spent years cultivating an image of a rebel fighting the system, knocking down walls protecting state-owned enterprises and becoming a billionaire in the process.

Yet on closer examination, it's clear that none of Ma's rhetoric ignored the groundwork that has already been laid out by Beijing, whether it's China expanding its footprint in Africa, exploring the ocean frontier in Southeast Asia, or revitalizing the once-famous Silk Road. When Xi Jinping was in Davos talking up global trade, Ma was quick to call (again) for his web-based version of the World Trade Organization. When China touted its One Belt, One Road project, Ma was quick to tout Alibaba's expansion in those regions. If anything, he's China's shadow diplomat, flying more than 870 hours and visiting 40 countries last year to meet with prime ministers and other leaders.

Ma's dabbling in international affairs is rooted in the goal of amassing billions of customers by 2036. By his own calculation, China will only be able to provide 40 percent of that market, the rest will have to be found overseas. Following China's Belt-Road project, setting up global trade platforms, even his promise to President Donald Trump to create a million jobs in the U.S. is all part of that plan. Indeed, Ma heads to Detroit next week to bring that message.

If anything, Jack Ma is a master in the dark arts of influence and international affairs. That probably makes him more of a savvy politician than a libertarian icon.

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From: Glenn Petersen6/19/2017 8:32:30 PM
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Jack Ma Woos Mom and Pop Shops in U.S. Jobs Push

Detroit conference aims to fulfill pledge to Trump to create one million jobs in America

by Selina Wang
June 19, 2017

Sam Wolf moved his family's health and wellness business online more than a decade ago. The Conshohocken, Pennsylvania-based company runs its own warehouse and sells thousands of nutrition products in dozens of countries through its own website as well as on Inc. and EBay Inc. But all that know-how didn't quite prepare Wolf for the experience of selling into China through Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s online stores.

Most small U.S. companies don't have the brand awareness in China to stand out among the millions of goods on Alibaba's websites, let alone the expertise that's required to take a product from a U.S. warehouse to a Chinese consumer's doorstep, cutting through the red tape to gain access to an otherwise inaccessible market. Alibaba is the virtual mall that houses the brands, but sellers are in charge of production and distribution with little clarity on the demand for their wares.

"If you want to get rich quick selling into China, this is not the way to do it,' said Wolf, who started LuckyVitamin's online store in 2005. ``There's investment up front and inherent risk. This is not just like selling products on Amazon and EBay where you just sign up and list."

Still, entrepreneurs like Wolf are the sellers Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma wants to woo when he arrives in Detroit this week for his company's Gateway conference. The two-day event is drawing thousands of U.S. business owners, from farmers to managers of more established brands, to learn how to succeed in China through Alibaba. For Ma, it's following through on a promise he made to U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this year to create one million jobs in the U.S.

Jack Ma and Donald Trump on Jan. 9, 2017.
Photographer: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

While Ma's offer was seen as good diplomacy after Trump's tough campaign talk on trade and tariffs with China, it wasn't purely altruistic. Ma has big ambitions. He sees Alibaba turning itself into one of the world's most powerful economies by serving 2 billion people and helping 10 million small businesses trade on the web. By his own calculation, Ma says China will only be able to provide 40 percent of that market. The rest will have to be found overseas.

That's what brings China's richest man to America's heartland. The event will feature speeches from Ma himself and his executive team, as well as United Parcel Service Inc. Chief Executive Officer David Abney, Martha Stewart, and panels with small U.S. businesses like Wolf's that are already selling on one of Alibaba’s virtual malls. Alibaba offers sellers the opportunity to reach the almost half-a-billion shoppers on its sites, but the path to those consumers is full of hurdles, from the language barrier to differences in understanding the Chinese buyer.

Alibaba already has hundreds of thousands of U.S.-based companies registered on, a business-to-business platform primarily used for sourcing, and more than 7,000 brands across its online stores including Tmall Global, where companies sell directly to consumers. Taobao Global is another Alibaba virtual store, where more niche international brands can list online. LuckyVitamin started offering its products on Tmall during Alibaba's annual one-day shopping blow-out, called Singles' Day, last November. LuckyVitamin got just one order that day.

Since then, LuckyVitamin's sales from China have grown in line with some of its other newer markets, though China is still a small portion of overall sales. Wolf describes working with Alibaba as starting a whole new business, rather than just tacking on a new sales channel. The company has had to enlist the help of various third parties to deal with translation, regulation, logistics. In addition to paying those partners, there's significant setup work and transaction fees that LuckyVitamin has to pay, according to Wolf.

The Gateway conference, the first that Alibaba says it plans to host annually, is meant to make the daunting task of selling through Alibaba easier for small businesses. The event will walk sellers through the process and connect them with partners like international trade specialists and logistics experts.

Persuading companies like LuckyVitamin to sign on could help Ma fulfill his employment pledge to Trump. On a conference call with journalists last month, Ma noted that Alibaba has created more than 33 million direct and indirect jobs for China, so he's confident he can create 1 million positions in the U.S. over the next five years.

Wolf says that LuckyVitamin, which currently has about 200 employees, has added about half a dozen workers since starting to sell on Tmall. It's impossible to say how much of that growth is attributed to Alibaba, Wolf says, since as overall sales have been increasing domestically and in more than 30 countries, it's unavoidable that the company would hire more people for customer service and in its distribution centers to pack and ship inventory.

"Would I say that this has created more jobs?" Wolf asks. "We've definitely created jobs but I can't exactly say because of what.' Still, Wolf does concede that selling in China is ``absolutely driving the business and sales."

Baozun Inc. is one of the many companies that help international brands like Burberry and Calvin Klein sell online to Chinese consumers. Backed by Alibaba, Baozun takes care of the process for companies from start to finish, including website design, customer service, technology infrastructure, warehousing and delivery, and marketing. Though publicly traded Baozun mostly works with large multinational brands, it's hoping to attract more boutique sellers as a result of Alibaba's push in the U.S.

"The obstacle here is complexity; It's very hard to understand" the process of selling into China through Alibaba, said Baozun CEO Vincent Qiu. "It's very challenging for a small-, medium-sized enterprise to do it themselves. There's a lot of knowledge and experience that's lacking."

Qiu says that the trickiest part about working with smaller companies is developing brand awareness among Chinese shoppers. Niche brands on Tmall won't get much traffic unless Baozun does heavy content marketing on their behalf, he said.

Christopher Tang, a professor at University of California at Los Angeles's Anderson School of Management, is skeptical that there is even enough demand for small U.S. brands in China. Aside from fresh produce that Chinese consumers are increasingly buying overseas for more variety and higher quality -- like Pacific Northwest cherries, Washington State apples, and Alaskan seafood -- Tang says shoppers have access to enough products online.

"The market for goods is already saturated,' Tang said. ``If you try to introduce brands in China from America that aren't well-known, I don't think Chinese consumers are going to be excited about it.'

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From: Glenn Petersen6/21/2017 11:40:21 PM
   of 625
Ant Financial is an affiliate of Alibaba. Unfortunately, it was spun out of Alibaba prior to the IPO. It is controlled by Jack Ma. There are reports that it will IPO in Hong Kong later this year.

Meet the Chinese Finance Giant That’s Secretly an AI Company

The smartphone payments business Ant Financial is using computer vision, natural language processing, and mountains of data to reimagine banking, insurance, and more. 0

by Will Knight
MIT Technology Review
June 16, 2017

Ant Financial announces a developer initiative in 2016.

If you get into a car accident in China in the near future, you'll be able to pull out your smartphone, take a photo, and file an insurance claim with an AI system.

That system, from Ant Financial, will automatically decide how serious the ding was and process the claim accordingly with an insurer. It shows how the company—which already operates a hugely successful smartphone payments business in China—aims to upend many areas of personal finance using machine learning and AI.

The e-commerce giant Alibaba created Ant in 2014 to operate Alipay, a ubiquitous mobile payments service in China. If you have visited the country in recent years, then you have probably seen people paying for meals, taxi rides, and a whole lot more by scanning a code with the Alipay app. The system is far more popular than the wireless payments systems offered in the U.S. by Apple, Google, and others. The company boasts more than 450 million active users compared to about 12 million for Apple Pay.

Ant’s progress will be significant to the future of the financial industry beyond China, including in the U.S., where the company is expanding its interests. The company’s approach goes around existing institutions to target individuals and small businesses who lack access to conventional financial services. Ant said in April of this year that it is buying the U.S. money-transfer service MoneyGram for $880 million. The deal is subject to regulatory approval and should close in the second half of this year. The company could well apply the technologies it is developing to its overseas subsidiaries. A spokesperson for the company says it hasn’t brought Alipay to the U.S. because existing financial systems provide less of an opportunity.

Yuan (Alan) Qi, a vice president and chief data scientist at Ant, says the company’s AI research is shaping its growth. “AI is being used in almost every corner of Ant’s business,” he says. “We use it to optimize the business, and to generate new products.”

The accident-processing system is a good example of how advances in AI can flip an existing system on its head, Qi says. It has become possible to automate this kind of image processing in recent years using a machine-learning technology known as deep learning. By feeding thousands of example images into a very large neural network, it is possible to train it to recognize things that even a human may struggle to spot (see “ 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013: Deep Learning”).

“We use computer vision for a job that is boring but also difficult,” Qi says. “I looked at the images myself, and I found it pretty difficult to tell the damage level.”

Qi speaks a mile a minute, which seems appropriate given how quickly his company seems to be moving. Dressed in a smart shirt and dress pants on a sweltering afternoon in Beijing this May, shortly after giving a speech at a major AI conference, Qi explained that the company considers itself not a “fintech” business but a “techfin” one, due to the importance of technology.

Ant already operates a range of other financial services besides Alipay. For instance, it provides small loans to those without a bank account. It assesses a person’s creditworthiness based on his or her spending history and other data including friends' credit scores (see “ Alipay Leads a Financial Revolution in China”).

Ant’s creditworthiness system also provides a high-tech way to obtain various services, such as hotel bookings, without a deposit. Qi says that Ant uses advanced machine-learning algorithms and custom programmable chips to crunch huge quantities of user data in a few seconds, to determine whether to grant a customer a loan, for instance.

A recent hire offers some measure of Ant’s intent to apply artificial intelligence to finance. This May the company announced that Michael Jordan, a professor at the University of Berkeley and a major figure in the field of machine learning and statistics, would become chair of the company’s scientific board.

Qi is no slouch, either. He got his PhD from MIT and became a professor in the computer science department at Purdue before joining Alibaba in 2014. Once there, he developed Alibaba’s first voice-recognition system for automating customer calls.

“We built a system, based on deep learning, to carry on conversations; to provide answers to your questions,” Qi says. This chatbot system also taps into a knowledge base of information created by Ant, and is an example of how researchers are increasingly combining cutting-edge machine-learning techniques with conventional representations of knowledge. “Human language is still very hard for a machine to understand,” Qi says.

In March this year, the chatbot system surpassed human performance in terms of customer satisfaction, says Qi. “There are many, many chatbot companies in Silicon Valley. We are the only one that can say, confidently, they do better than human beings,” he says.

Ant’s success to date has certainly been impressive. Credit Suisse estimates that it manages 58 percent of mobile payments in China. A key competitor has emerged in recent years with WeixinPay, from the mobile chat giant Tencent, now accounting for almost 40 percent of the market. Ant remains enormously valuable, though. Earlier this year, a Hong Kong investment group valued the company at $75 billion. The company was expected make an initial public offering this year, but that now looks more likely to happen in 2018.

Ant is also increasingly looking to expand its interests overseas. The company has invested almost $1 billion in Paytm, an Indian payments company. It has also invested in Ascend, a Thai online payments business, and M-Daq, a Singaporean financial business. Ant apparently also sees investments and acquisitions as a way to bolster its technological prowess. Last year the company acquired EyeVerify, a U.S. company that makes eye recognition software.

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (498)6/22/2017 7:27:50 AM
From: John Carragher
   of 625
when we were over in china it seemed minor traffic fender benders were paid in cash. they would get out of their cars and complain to each other. then one guy would open his wallet pull out some cash and give it to the person who it hit. both would then drive off.

i saw this happen a few times during early commuting time.

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