Does Alibaba's Shopping Spree Makes Sense? 阿里巴巴收购狂潮用意何在?


图片来源:justin lane/European Pressphoto Agency
图片来源:justin lane/European Pressphoto Agency

Alibaba Group Holding Executive Chairman Jack Ma likes to ​attribute his company's success to "spendthrift Chinese women" who love online purchases. But the Chinese e-commerce giant has been on a shopping spree of its own.

阿里巴巴集团(Alibaba Group, BABA) 执行主席马云(Jack Ma) 喜欢将阿里巴巴的成功归因于中国的败家女人。不过这家中国电商巨头自己也在进行大举收购。

Over the past two years, Alibaba has bought into businesses as diverse as a soccer club, a film studio and an electronics retail chain. It hasn't been cheap. According to data provider Dealogic, Alibaba has made 47 acquisitions since 2014 in deals valued at $23.9 billion. That roughly matches the $25 billion it raised more than a year ago in its blockbuster initial public offering of stock, the world's largest.


Some investors worry that Mr. Ma is building an unwieldy empire, the sort of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink conglomerate that long ago fell out of favor with Wall Street. Some of the skepticism can be seen in Alibaba's share price. Though they have come back in recent weeks, the company's shares are still about one-third off their year-ago high over worries about its strategy, as well as over broader concerns about China's economic slowdown.


It might be tempting to dismiss Alibaba's acquisition strategy as lacking clarity and logic. That would be premature.


Three of Alibaba's biggest deals so far this year accomplished two tasks: They fended off rivals and added to its portfolio in e-commerce, logistics and mobile.


In February, Alibaba made a $590 million investment in Meizu Technology, one of bigger handset brands in China. The deal gives Alibaba another foothold in mobile and gives the company a potential way to match handset maker Xiaomi, which has had its own e-commerce success.

今年2月份,阿里巴巴对手机品牌魅族(Meizu Technology)进行了5.9亿美元的投资。通过该交易,阿里巴巴不仅能巩固自身在移动行业的地位,还有助于顶住在电商领域不断进取的手机厂商小米(Xiaomi Corp.)的攻势。

In August, Alibaba invested $4.5 billion for a nearly 20% stake in electronics retailer Suning Commerce Group, one of its biggest rivals. Under the alliance, Suning joined its logistics network with Alibaba's logistics affiliate, positioning it better to compete with, which owns a logistics service.

今年8月份,阿里巴巴投资45亿美元收购了其一大竞争对手电器零售商苏宁云商股份有限公司(Suning Commerce Group Co., 002024.SZ, 简称:苏宁云商)近20%的股权。根据合作协议,苏宁的物流网络加入阿里巴巴的物流子公司,以更好地与拥有自有物流服务的京东( Inc)展开竞争。

In October, Alibaba offered to buy the roughly four-fifths of video site Youku Tudou that it didn't already own. The deal valued Youku Tudou at $4.6 billion. The video site's 500 million-plus monthly unique visitors represent potential customers for Alibaba's e-commerce platforms, and it helps Alibaba better match up against rival Tencent Holdings, which has a significant online video presence.

今年10月份,阿里巴巴收购了其尚未持有的视频网站合一集团(Youku Tudou Inc., YOKU, 原名:优酷土豆)约80%的股份。这一交易对优酷土豆的估值约为45亿美元。优酷土豆单月独立访客量超过5亿,他们的用户是阿里巴巴电商平台的潜在客户,能够提升阿里巴巴相对于腾讯控股有限公司(Tencent Holdings Ltd., 0700.HK, 简称:腾讯控股)的竞争力,后者在在线视频领域的影响力巨大。

The biggest value of these purchases? Alibaba can create a comprehensive profile of a user who buys on Taobao—its small-business marketplace—pays using Alibaba's Alipay e-payments affiliate and watches videos on Youku Tudou, said Lin Chen, assistant professor of marketing at China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. Data from posting on Weibo, the social-media service that Alibaba owns a stake in, also helps.

这些收购交易的最大价值何在呢?中欧国际工商学院(China Europe International Business School)市场营销学助理教授林宸表示,用户在淘宝网(Taobao)上购物,用支付宝(Alipay)付款,在优酷土豆上看视频,阿里巴巴可以以此建立起一个比较完整的用户画像。在阿里巴巴持股的微博(Weibo, WB)上发帖产生的数据对该公司也有帮助。

Alibaba can use such big data to determine whether a user qualifies for more loans from Ant Financial Services Group, Alibaba's finance affiliate, she said. "This can only happen in China because regulations on online privacy aren't comprehensive yet," Ms. Lin said.

她说,阿里巴巴可以通过这些大数据来决定一个用户是否有资格向阿里巴巴的金融关联公司蚂蚁金融服务集团(Ant Financial Services Group)申请更多贷款。林宸说,这种情况只可能发生在中国,因为中国对网上隐私的监管还不全面。

Alibaba's investments in Youku Tudou and Weibo also will provide the e-commerce company with mobile-traffic access points, something it lacks compared with Tencent's social-media app WeChat, which has 650 million active users each month.


Alibaba's competitors are active, too. Over the past two years, Tencent struck 67 deals that are valued at $16.9 billion, according to Dealogic.


"A lot of these deals were defensive, pre-empting competitors from getting a good company," said Haitao Dong, portfolio manager at Everbright Asset Management in Hong Kong.

驻香港的光大资产管理有限公司(Everbright Assets Management Ltd.)基金经理董海韬说,阿里巴巴的许多交易都是防御性的,目的是防止竞争对手抢得好公司。

He said his fund currently doesn't have a position in Alibaba.


Alibaba and others see opportunities in fields such as e-commerce, communications, entertainment and financial services because those industries in China aren't as established as those in the U.S.


"They're in land-grab mentality now," said Duncan Clark, the chairman of consulting firm BDA China. Mr. Clark served as an early adviser to Alibaba and has a book about the company coming out in the spring.

咨询公司BDA China董事长Duncan Clark称,这些公司现在抱持一种抢地盘的心态。Clark投资了阿里巴巴的股票,他写了一本关于阿里巴巴的书,即将在春天出版。

Alibaba and others are also buying while they can. China's relatively new antitrust laws have so far focused mostly on foreign companies. That might not last.


Many Chinese Internet industry insiders question whether Alibaba has the capacity to digest so many new businesses and new employees.


​In the stock market, the performances of Weibo and Momo—the dating app that represents another Alibaba investment—have been disappointing, prompting Momo's management to propose a private buyout. Hong Kong-traded Alibaba Pictures Group has never made a profit.

在股票市场上,微博和陌陌(Momo Inc., MOMO)(阿里巴巴入股的约会应用)股票的表现令人失望,这促使陌陌管理层提出了私有化提议。香港上市的阿里巴巴影业集团有限公司(Alibaba Pictures Group, 1060.HK)从未盈利。

In a recent interview with a Beijing-based newspaper, Mr. Ma pointed to the likes of mobile browser UCWeb, which is a driver for Alibaba's mobile strategy, and Gaode maps, which is competing with Baidu's widely used map service, as successful examples of Alibaba's acquisitions. But he also said there are many failed M&As in the business world. "It can't be successful in every case," he said.

马云在近期接受北京一家报纸采访时指出,像手机浏览器UC浏览器(UCWeb)和高德地图等都是阿里巴巴成功的收购案例,UC浏览器是阿里巴巴移动战略的关键推动因素,而高德地图正与被广泛使用的百度(Baidu Inc.)地图服务展开竞争。不过他也表示,企业界有很多失败的并购交易,不可能每次都成功。

Mr. Ma denied that Alibaba is building an empire.


"Empires must rob and conquer," he said. "They must charge ahead and fight hard. How many empires had good endings?"