Alibaba Expands Push Into Russia With Joint Venture

Alibaba, the Chinese eCommerce giant, inked a deal Tuesday (September 11) with the Russian Direct Investment Fund and Group to create AliExpress Russia.

According to a report in Bloomberg, Alibaba is creating a $2 billion joint venture to boost its eCommerce business in Russia, with the local investors controlling the joint venture. Bloomberg reported that Alibaba will add its domestic operations of Tmall and AliExpress into the joint venture, with billionaire owner Alisher Usmanov’s MegaFon PJSC selling its 10 percent stake in to Alibaba for 24 percent of the new venture. The stake is worth around $486 million, noted Bloomberg.

“A big part of what we’ve been able to develop so far in Russia has been our cross-border business,” Alibaba President Mike Evans told reporters, according to Bloomberg. “But the future, which will require the presence of our partners at this table, will involve building a much bigger local business.”

Bloomberg reported that Alibaba will access’s audience via two social networks in the country. Pandao, a mobile platform for selling Chinese goods in Russia, will also be rolled into the Alibaba venture. The report noted that the Russian Direct Investment Fund will add funding in return for a 13 percent stake, while gets the remaining 15 percent. It’s not clear how much the Russian Direct Investment Fund is adding to the joint venture, noted the report.

The deal comes as Jack Ma, Alibaba’s co-founder, announced Monday (September 10) that he is remaining in his position through Sept. 10, 2019, after which he will be stepping down as executive chairman to pursue philanthropy in education. Daniel Zhang, the company’s current CEO, will take on the role of chairman of the board.

The Wall Street Journal, citing a letter Ma addressed to customers, reported Ma said he would stay on the board until 2020 and that he plans to continue his role as the founding partner of Alibaba Partnership, which is comprised of senior executives who can nominate most of the board at the company even though they don’t hold majority shares.

“The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things — because what if new dreams can be realized?” Ma wrote. “The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”