Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is investing US$200 million in photo-messaging app Snapchat, following a string of prior investments in U.S. tech companies.
The companies did not publicly comment on the deal. But a person familiar with the matter confirmed the investment on Thursday.
The e-commerce firm has been funding both U.S. and Chinese tech companies, as a way to grow the company’s global ecosystem, the source said.
Previous deals made in the U.S. include investing in messaging app Tango, online retail site ShopRunner, and ride-sharing service Lyft.
The activity has sparked speculation that the Chinese e-commerce company is preparing to buy its way into the U.S. market. Last week, Alibaba announced it was opening its first data center in Silicon Valley to target the U.S. cloud computing sector.
Although Alibaba has global aspirations, analysts have said the company is more focused on learning from U.S. tech companies, and applying that knowledge to its Chinese businesses.
In China, Alibaba’s own bid to develop a messaging app has struggled to take off. Rival Tencent dominates the country’s mobile messaging space.
So far, Alibaba hasn’t generally integrated its services with the U.S. companies it has invested in. An exception was its funding of Quixey, a company that provides searches for mobile apps. The Chinese firm later tapped Quixey to provide app queries on the Alibaba-developed mobile OS.
In the U.S., Alibaba has yet to open an online retail presence on par with Amazon or eBay. But it does have its AliExpress marketplace, an English-speaking site targeting international buyers, along with a site called 11Main, offering specialized goods.
Alibaba is perhaps best known for its massive IPO listing last year. The company ranks as one of China’s biggest Internet firms, and runs the country’s largest e-commerce sites in Taobao Marketplace and Tmall.com.