Yum’s new China backers add spice at a price

September 2, 2016

The KFC owner is selling a slug of its China unit to Alibaba's mobile-payments arm and a firm run by former Goldman Sachs partner Fred Hu. Together, they bring tech nous and connections. It's a better deal than usual for cornerstone investors, but may pay off for Yum's spinoff.

Yahoo’s failure clarifies future for U.S. spinoffs

July 15, 2016

The Treasury modified regulations on when splits can qualify for tax-free treatment. The move comes after the IRS declined to bless Yahoo's carve-out of its Alibaba stake. Similar deals have been on hold since. This reasonable government approach provides much-needed clarity.

Alibaba highlights hurdles in Russia’s pivot east

July 12, 2016

Moscow wants closer economic ties with China, rather than dealing with an unfriendly West. But Russia's poor business climate makes life hard for Chinese companies, although they are used to draconian rules at home. Even e-commerce giant Alibaba has only made modest inroads.

Jack Ma’s healthcare buyout is hard to stomach

June 9, 2016

The Alibaba boss’s buyout firm is bidding $1.4 bln-plus for U.S.-listed iKang. His minimum bid is 20 pct cheaper than an unfriendly approach from a rival, now dropped, which iKang’s CEO countered with a poison pill. Unless Ma pays more, outside investors will feel pretty icky.

SoftBank’s $8 bln Alibaba sale is late but prudent

June 1, 2016

Masayoshi Son’s tech and telecom conglomerate is offloading 4.2 pct of the Chinese e-commerce giant to pay down debt. The hugely successful investment is now more burden than blessing. As SoftBank takes a more disciplined approach to its portfolio, further disposals may follow.

Alibaba’s strong core comes with shaky periphery

May 5, 2016

The Chinese e-commerce group’s revenue soared 39 pct year on year, faster than volumes of stuff sold on its sites. Alibaba also disclosed losses on its fintech, services and logistics affiliates. Those trends can co-exist, so long as online shopping growth stays sturdy.

Jack Ma’s jewel is a $20 bln mystery for Alibaba

April 27, 2016

The e-commerce group’s financial affiliate is now valued at $60 bln. Alibaba has an option to take a 33 pct stake, or extend a profit-sharing agreement between the two. Yet their future relationship is clouded by regulatory uncertainty. Alibaba’s shareholders are in the dark.

Confucius say: Don’t confuse Ant with unicorn

April 26, 2016

The $60 bln implied value of Chinese fintech group Ant Financial suggests PayPal-style innovation on steroids. It’s not so simple, though. The Alibaba affiliate’s fortunes may be tied more closely to the vagaries of PRC state capitalism than to private-sector disruption.

Review: A short tour of Jack Ma’s virtual mansion

April 22, 2016

An insider’s account provides fresh insights into the origins of China’s most successful entrepreneur. Yet the tale of Ma’s rise reveals little about the inner workings of his e-commerce empire. Outsiders are no closer to disentangling Alibaba’s future from its founder.

Alibaba offers two insights into China economy

January 28, 2016

The e-commerce giant’s third-quarter revenue rose 32 pct, above expectations. It shows China shifting to more consumption. But it also shows that Alibaba, like China, needs new ways to grow. Forays into local services and the cloud make it a less useful proxy for the consumer.