Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China’s largest e-commerce company, set up an investment team in the U.S. to work with entrepreneurs focused on Internet commerce and technology.
The team will be run by Michael Zeisser, who oversaw Liberty Media Corp. (LMCA:US)’s e-commerce group, and will be based in the San Francisco area, the company said in an e-mail yesterday.
Alibaba has expanded its U.S. foothold with investments in ShopRunner, Quixey Inc. and Fanatics Inc. as it seeks to move beyond its focus on China. The company, which has been valued by investment banks at as much as $190 billion, is considering a U.S. initial public offering after talks with Hong Kong’s exchange broke down, two people familiar with the matter said last month.
“These Internet companies in China have reached a point where their cash flow is growing strongly,” said Billy Leung, an analyst at RHB Research Institute Sdn. in Hong Kong. “It’s sort of the mentality why spend all their time developing the technology when they can actually buy it.”
The U.S. investment team includes Peter Stern, a former banker with Credit Suisse Group AG, who advised Alibaba on the $7.6 billion stock repurchase from Yahoo! Inc. in 2012.
“The team has been active over the past several months and we have already completed a few investments in the U.S.,” Joseph Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba and head of its strategic investments, said in the statement.
Alibaba led a $206 million investment in ShopRunner this month. The members-only site aggregates offers from retail partners, including Toys “R” Us Inc. and Brooks Brothers Inc., and provides free two-day shipping.
The company was joined by American Express Co. (AXP:US) in the funding round, according to ShopRunner, which is run by former Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Scott Thompson.
Fanatics is an online retailer of officially licensed sports merchandise, and Quixey develops search technology for content within mobile apps.
Alibaba, co-founded by former English teacher Jack Ma, has been valued at as much as $190 billion by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. That would put its value above Facebook Inc. The only Internet companies that rank higher are Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
Alibaba’s proposed partnership structure, which would see Ma and his senior executives maintain control after an IPO, has been accepted by the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. The partnership was discussed with Hong Kong exchange before talks broke down, the people familiar with the matter said last month.
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