Alibaba denies talks to sell Lazada’s Thailand unit as it eyes continued global expansion

Southeast Asian online shopping giant Lazada Group has refuted a report that parent company Alibaba Group Holding is planning to sell its Thailand unit, as China’s largest e-commerce conglomerate eyes overseas expansion amid a domestic economic slowdown.

“Lazada Group is not considering any divestment of our business in Thailand and is not in discussion with any investors on this topic,” the company said in a statement. “Any rumours stating otherwise are untrue.”

The Bangkok Post on Thursday reported that Alibaba had been in talks with local conglomerates to sell its stake in the Thailand operations, citing anonymous sources.

Lazada started in Singapore in 2012 and by 2016 claimed to be the largest e-commerce firm in Southeast Asia. Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post, bought a controlling stake in the company that year.

Alibaba has continued to pump fresh capital into Lazada over the years, including two sizeable investments last year: US$845 in July and US$634 million in December. Alibaba invested another US$230 million in May this year, according to Crunchbase data. It has to date spent a total of US$7.4 billion on the Southeast Asian digital retailer.

Lazada now sits under Alibaba’s International Digital Commerce Group, one of the Hangzhou-based tech giant’s six major business groups set up during an organisational overhaul in March 2023.

The international group – which also consists of AliExpress, Trendyol and Daraz – recorded a 60 per cent year-on-year revenue increase in the financial year ended March. In its annual report, Alibaba attributed the rise mainly to growth in AliExpress, its international business-to-consumer platform, and Trendyol, a Turkey-based e-commerce platform.

The unit’s 2024 first-quarter revenue increased another 45 per cent year on year, the company said.

Lazada also managed to narrow losses per order in the last financial year owing to increased monetisation and lower logistics costs, according to Alibaba.

The last financial year was Alibaba’s most profitable since 2021, with net income increasing 10 per cent to 79.7 billion yuan (US$11 billion) and revenue growing by 8 per cent to 941.2 billion yuan.

Alibaba has been scrambling over the past year to respond to rising competition from budget online retailer PDD Holdings, owner of Pinduoduo and Temu. The tech giant touted some impressive growth trends for the latest 618 shopping festival this week, but again declined to reveal total gross merchandise value figures.

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