Another billion dollar deal? Sure, why not! Southeast Asia wasn’t the only new market that Alibaba spent big to enter last week. Beyond a deal with Rocket Internet’s Lazada, the e-commerce giant also confirmed a $1.25 billion investment in Ele.me, a leading food delivery service in China.
Alibaba invested $900 million in the Shanghai-based company, with Ant Financial, its finance-focused affiliate, providing the rest of the cash.
The deal was first reported back in December 2015, and it increases Alibaba’s efforts in ‘online to offline’ — the buzzword for platforms that enable traditional retailers to use growing access to internet and mobile to reach and engage with customers. Alibaba sold $900 million in shares in Dianping-Meituan, the local deals giant formed by a billion-dollar merger between China’s top two players. That move, it is suggested, was motivated by the fact that rival Tencent is also a stakeholder. In Ele.me, Alibaba has a new focus in the space with a company that it could acquire outright further down the line.
There are also other synergies in Alibaba’s portfolio. It has a joint venture called Koubei which helps restaurants offer promotions via mobile. Alibaba recently inked a new $3 billion loan facility, and it has plenty of cash on hand, so expect more acquisitions to come this year.
For now, Ele.me remains an independent company, although Alibaba executive vice chairman Joe Tsai has joined the company’s board. Tsai is part of the Magic Leap board after Alibaba led a recent investment in the billion-dollar augmented reality company.