What Alibaba’s Latest Move Says About China’s Changing Retail Landscape

January 10, 2017, 2:58 AM UTC
Intime Lotte department store in Beijing at night
Intime Lotte department store in Beijing at night. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
Education Images UIG via Getty Images

E-commerce firm Alibaba (BABA) and the founder of Intime Retail (INTIF) have jointly bid to take the Chinese department store operator private for HK$19.79 billion ($2.55 billion), the partners said on Tuesday.

Alibaba Investment Ltd and Shen Guo Jun have offered HK$10 per Intime share. That would represent 42.25 percent more than the stock’s last price of HK$7.03 on Dec. 28 when trading was suspended pending an announcement. The stock price surged 35% when trading resumed on Tuesday.

The Alibaba group currently holds 27.82% of Intime while Shen owns 9.17%. The pair plan to finance the purchase through internal cash resources and external debt financing.

Intime said in a statement to Hong Kong’s stock exchange that Alibaba and Shen planned to explore development opportunities and implement a series of long-term growth strategies, which could affect its short-term growth.

“We don’t divide the world into real or virtual economies, only the old and the new,” said Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang in a separate statement. “Those who cling on to the old ways of retailing will be disrupted.”

“Our combination with Intime will enable us to tap into the long-term growth potential of a new form of retail in China powered by Internet technology and data,” Zhang said.

China’s retail sector is worth $4.5 trillion and is growing at 10.7% a year, Alibaba said. The e-commerce firm also said it was working with offline retailers to create a new shopping experience.

Alibaba initially took a stake in Intime in 2014 with an investment of $692.25 million.

Intime operates 29 department stores and 17 shopping malls in China, mainly in so-called first- and second-tier cities. In August, it posted a 21.3% fall in first-half profit amid declining sales, saying e-commerce had transformed the competitive landscape.

Its shares fell 8% in 2016, compared with a 0.4% rise in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

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Separately, Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma met U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Monday and laid out his firm’s plan to bring a million small U.S. businesses onto its e-commerce platform to sell to Chinese consumers over the next five years.

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