Alibaba goes Belt and Road with Daraz deal

The Chinese e-commerce giant buys a Pakistani company that operates in five countries key to Beijing's regional trade plan

Jack Ma is following the Belt and Road route to international expansion.

The Chinese billionaire's Alibaba e-commerce empire has added an outpost in South Asia with the purchase of Daraz from Frankfurt-based incubator Rocket Internet.

The deal for the Pakistan-based online shopping group was confirmed in a statement on Tuesday. Terms were not disclosed.

It comes hot on the heels of an investment in Bangladeshi financial services provider bKash by Ant Financial, Alibaba's fintech affiliate.

In the case of Daraz, the deal gives Alibaba access not only to the market in Pakistan – a key regional ally of Beijing – but also operations in Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The countries include some of the biggest beneficiaries of China's Belt and Road Initiative  – perhaps reflecting the Chinese regulators' preference for deals that bolster national goals over trophy assets in the west.

It's not the first time Alibaba has done business with Rocket Internet as it pursues regional expansion. Back in 2016, it acquired a majority stake in Singapore-based Lazada from the same company.

"We are excited for Daraz to become a part of the Alibaba ecosystem," said Daniel Zhang, Alibaba Group's CEO, in a statement. "Together with Daraz, we can now empower entrepreneurs to better serve consumers in the region through our technology and expertise.

"In Daraz, we found a great team that espouses our values and believes that a technology-enabled commerce ecosystem will play a critical role in driving the long term economic development in South Asia." Zhang said.

“The sale of Daraz to Alibaba is another testament to Rocket Internet´s ability to successfully scale and exit market-leading companies,” said Oliver Samwer, CEO of Rocket Internet. “Leading technology and a strong logistics network have helped creating one of the fastest growing companies in the region. The acquisition by Alibaba is a tremendous success for the entire team working at Daraz.”

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