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21 November 2017, 01:00 | Floyd Cook
Alibaba buys 36.2 per cent stake in Wal-Mart style hypermarket chain for US$2.9 billion
Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang said: "Physical stores serve an indispensable role during the consumer journey, and should be enhanced through data-driven technology and personalised services in the digital economy".
XAutoplay: On | OffSun Art Retail operates 446 "hypermarket complexes" in 224 cities across 29 provinces, regions and municipalities in China, under the RT-Mart and Auchan banners.
In August, Amazon bought United States upmarket grocery chain Whole Foods Market for US$13.7 billion, the biggest acquisition in the e-commerce giant's history, in an aggressive push further into physical stores and merge online and offline retail.
As part of an alliance with Auchan Retail S.A. [AUCH.UL] and Ruentex Group, Alibaba would buy the stake from Ruentex while Auchan Retail would boost its stake, the three companies said in a joint statement.
Interestingly, Alibaba has a strategic partnership with Auchan Retail which makes the alliance with the majority stakeholder of Sun Art Retail.
The deal would give French retailer Groupe Auchan SA, China's Alibaba Group and Taiwanese conglomerate Ruentex 36.18 percent, 36.16 percent and 4.67 percent stakes respectively in Sun Art. Alibaba would replace Ruentex as the second-largest shareholder.
"The new-retail strategy seems to be the new trend for e-commerce giants".
Peter Huang, vice chairman of Ruentex Group, said Sun Art Retail is making efforts to "move from offline to online" as consumer demands have changed "tremendously" in recent years with the rapid growth of mobile internet. The investment will be made via Taobao, a popular online shopping platform of Alibaba. Jack Ma's company spent billions buying into grocers, shopping malls and even department stores long before Amazon picked up Whole Foods. The e-commerce giant has Hema groceries brand, which offers combined experience of online and offline shopping.
Alibaba shares now carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
Shares of Hong Kong-listed Sun Art, which were suspended on November 13, resumed on Monday and were down 5.3 percent in morning trade, while the benchmark index .HSI was flat. The group is considered as the Chinese Walmart.
According to the data from DBS, China's entire grocery market is worth more than $660 billion.
In January, Alibaba bought the remainder of InTime and took the business private, while during May it bought a share of Lianhua the supermarket brand.
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