Alibaba, Russian tech firm Mail.ru to launch new venture

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 11 2018 06:56 PM

The logo of Alibaba Group is seen at the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China. Aly Song, Reuters/File 

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia - Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and Russian technology group Mail.ru on Tuesday announced a deal to launch a joint venture in Russia and former Soviet countries.

The two groups, along with the Russian sovereign wealth fund RDIF and telecom operator MegaFon, announced the creation of "a new strategic partnership" as Russia hosts an economic forum here. 

Alibaba and Mail.ru said in a statement this would "integrate Russia's key consumer internet and e-commerce platforms and launch a leading social commerce joint venture in Russia and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States)."

The new company will be called AliExpress Russia - taking after the name of an existing Alibaba platform. 

It will be 48 percent owned by Alibaba, 24 percent by MegaFon, 15 percent by Mail.ru and 13 percent by the RDIF, the statement said, without disclosing the amounts involved.

Alibaba, founded by tech billionaire Jack Ma in 1999, already plays a major role in e-commerce in Russia through its AliExpress and Tmall platforms. 

"We want this to be a Russian business," Alibaba Group president Michael Evans said at a press conference in Vladivostok, saying the Chinese group was bringing "experience and technology."

Kirill Dmitriyev, general director of the RDIF, said the Russian partners would receive a combined 52 percent share in the new structure.

Mail.ru, whose assets include Russia's most popular social media network VK, is owned by Kremlin-friendly billionaire Alisher Usmanov. 

In 2017, it launched a platform called Pandao selling Chinese goods to Russian consumers. 

Usmanov was quoted as saying in a statement that the new partnership is a "significant step for the digital transformation of the Russian economy."

The deal comes after Russia's largest bank Sberbank and internet company Yandex announced an e-commerce tie-up in August.