Alibaba reinforces shift to devices
Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd stepped up efforts to replicate its Internet success in the mobile sector with a move that saw Chairman Jack Ma take a seat on the board of UCWeb Inc, a Beijingbased mobile Internet browser provider.
Yu Yongfu, chief executive officer of UCWeb, confirmed on Thursday that Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma had joined his company’s board. Yu said Alibaba had made a strategic investment in UCWeb as early as 2009 and later added to its investment during another round of fundraising for the browser company.
Yu said Alibaba holds a “significant” stake in UCWeb, but did not reveal specific figures.
In an e-mail sent to China Daily, Yu said UCWeb would cooperate with Alibaba in terms of e- commerce and mobile payment, but did not elaborate further.
Founded in 2004, UCWeb is China’s biggest mobile browser service provider. The company has more than 400 million users worldwide. Its business sprawls across both emerging markets such as India and some developed economies including the United States.
UCWeb’s cooperation with Alibaba can be traced back two years ago, when Alipay. com Co Ltd, an affiliate of Alibaba, partnered with UCWeb to allow users to make payments using UCWeb’s mobile browser.
Alipay officials said the service was safe and convenient. Online buyers have no need to enter a password when the transaction involves less than 200 yuan ($32.67), said Stephen Zhu, general manager of Alipay. com’s mobile payment department, in an interview in 2011.
Alibaba’s move signifies the company’s ambition to have a bigger say in the mobile Internet sector, where Alibaba’s domestic rivals Tencent Holdings Ltd and Baidu Inc have gained an upper hand.
Alibaba showed its appetite for a larger share in the mobile Internet market by completing a spate of mergers and acquisitions in recent months.
Alibaba announced in May that it would acquire an 18 percent stake in Sina Weibo for $586 million. About a week later, the company disclosed another deal to take a 28 percent stake in Chinese digital mapping and navigation company AutoNavi Holdings Ltd for $294 million. The Nasdaqlisted AutoNavi is said to have more than 100 million users.
Alibaba made a strategic investment in UCWeb as early as 2009 and later added to its investment during another round of fund raising for the browser company.