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The Alibaba Group

Introduction:  At the time of this writing, October 5, 2014, Alibaba has had a lot of coverage in the business media.  This is primarily due to their September 18, 2014 IPO which raised a projected $21.8 Billion making it one of the largest public offerings ever in the US.  (Wikipedia, Telis & Jarzemsky).  Furthermore:

The price gives the e-commerce company an initial market value of $168 billion, making it one of the 40 biggest public companies globally, according to S&P Capital IQ, and worth more than U.S. online- shopping giant Amazon.com Inc.  Amazon is currently valued at $150 billion.  (Telis & Jarzemsky)

It is common for internet and high tech companies to have relatively recent startups, meteoric rises in sales and profits, and to experience high value and heavily publicized IPOs; e.g. Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and others.  Alibaba is different, from a US perspective because, they were not very well known by the general business community in the US as they are a Chinese company.

Alibaba Overview and History:   Alibaba is an online marketplace and e-commerce company.  Per the Wall Street Journal (Projects WSJ.com):

  • Defining Alibaba:  Alibaba is China’s — and by some measures, the world’s —biggest online commerce company. Its three main sites — Taobao, Tmall and Alibaba.com — have hundreds of millions of users, and host millions of merchants and businesses. Alibaba handles more business than any other e-commerce company.
  • E-commerce:  Alibaba is the most popular destination for online shopping, in the world's fastest growing e-commerce market. Transactions on its online sites totaled $248 billion last year, more than those of eBay and Amazon.com combined.

Alibaba was founded in 1999 by Jack Ma.  In lieu of the typical high tech start-up garage, Mr. Ma began Alibaba in his apartment.  The name Alibaba was chosen because, in his most unstatistical survey, everyone, all around the world knows the name Alibaba and the famous story about the Forty Thieves.  He liked that he was providing an “open sesame” to smaller sized Chinese companies into the global marketplace and opening sourcing possibilities to smaller companies around the globe.

Business Offerings and Divisions:  Alibaba is made up of ten different businesses operating under the Alibaba Group as summarized in the table below.  The Alibaba Group is organized around marketing channels and supply chains therefore each business is either a market place (marketing channel) or supply chain support to the market places.  The supply chain support businesses are not limited to the Alibaba Group marketing channels.  

Market Place Divisions

Supply Chain/Support Divisions

The amount of buzz and attention around the IPO and impressive amount of funds raised because of it are because of the breadth of product offerings of the company.  They apparently can do it all.  Currently, they are doing it all only in China as many of their divisions only operate there.  Clearly, the investment community views them ready for the global stage and perhaps the first viable competitor to Amazon.com.  


  1.  Frick, Walter, “Alibaba Looks More Like GE than Google,” Harvard Business Review
  2. http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/05/alibaba-looks-more-like-ge-than-google/
  3. Demos, Telis and Jarzemsky, Matt, “Alibaba’s IPO Priced at $68 a share,” Wall Street Journal, September 18, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/articles/alibabas-ipo-priced-at-68-a-share-1411075675?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories
  4. Google Finance Alibaba (BABA)   https://www.google.com/finance?q=NYSE%3ABABA&ei=BwEwVLDXMcn2qQGL_IGYCw
  5. Projects WSJ.com, Wall Street Journal online pictorial Presentation of Alibaba the company http://projects.wsj.com/alibaba/
  6. Wilipedia Alibaba page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alibaba_Group
  7. WSJ.D, Tech New and Analysis from the Wall Street Journal, “Alibaba’s IPO Filing: Everything You Need to Know,” May 6, 2014, http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/05/06/alibabas-ipo-filing-everything-you-need-to-know/



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