Alibaba, Russian tech firm to launch new venture

Agence France Presse, 11.09.2018

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and Russian technology group 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 in the far eastern city of Vladivostok.

Alibaba and 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 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 that the Chinese group was bringing "experience and technology."

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