Alibaba’s Ma Seeks Partners to Expand Into US Market

Alibaba.com's auction and online payment sites could be launched in the U.S., if group executives visiting Silicon Valley find an opportunity in meetings with prospective partners, including Google, Yahoo, eBay and Microsoft.

Currently on a two-week trip to the U.S., Alibaba.com CEO Jack Ma and 10 senior managers are discussing possible partnerships in meetings with these and other companies, an Alibaba spokeswoman said Tuesday. The discussions include the possibility of bringing Alibaba's Alipay online payment system and Taobao auction site to the U.S., she said.

Alibaba has considered bringing its sites to the United States and Europe for two years, she said.

A Taobao venture in the United States would compete with eBay and face challenges the U.S. company itself succumbed to after setting up its own site in China.

Taobao chipped away at eBay's market share by eliminating user fees and offering a more localized feel. Taobao now holds over 80 percent of China's consumer-to-consumer e-commerce market -- similar to the position eBay holds in the United States, said iResearch analyst Zhang Yanping.

"If Taobao wants to enter America, then it first faces a company that is similar to a monopoly," Zhang said.

"Taobao's brand and quality may be very well known in China, but if it wants to develop abroad then it would have to build these things from the beginning," she said.

Transaction volume on Taobao grew more than two-fold and registered users rose to 98 million in 2008, with makeup and mobile phones some of the most popular items that are traded.

Payment service Alipay, launched one year after Taobao in 2004, now has 100 million users in a country where credit cards are rare and many online shoppers pay using cash-on-delivery.

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