Alibaba is on an acquisition spree. Yesterday, the company invested in Israeli QR code start-up Visualead. The Chinese e-commerce giant is also in talks to invest $575 million in India’s One97 Communications, which operates a mobile payment platform and online marketplace called Paytm. Now Reuters reports that Alibaba is planning to buy a stake in the state-run New China Life Insurance.
Chinese financial sector ripe for technological disruption
Sources familiar with the talks told Shanghai Securities News that the Chinese government’s investment arm Central Huijin Investment is the largest stakeholder in the insurer with 31.34% stake. Central Huijin is planning to sell part of its stake to Alibaba. The newspaper did not provide details on the size of the deal. New China Life Insurance currently has a market value of $24 billion.
On January 19, New China Life Insurance sought a trading suspension. The company said that it was in the midst of negotiations that might change its shareholding structure. Alibaba already has a presence in Chinese insurance market. Last month, Alibaba founder Jack Ma and Tencent Holdings were involved in a $4.7 billion investment in Ping An Insurance, the second largest insurer in China.
Alibaba’s strategic investments in insurance companies have sparked speculations that the company was planning to disrupt China’s financial sector. The deal with Ping An suggests that Alibaba and Tencent have been eyeing financial sector as a business ripe for technological disruption. What’s more, these two Internet giants, along with Baidu, are spending billions of dollars to back similar ventures in an attempt to create a one-stop shop for consumers.
Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent trying to woo same set of consumers
Not too long ago, Alibaba was an e-commerce company, Tencent was focused on social networking, while Baidu was a search engine leader. As the smartphone penetration in China continues to rise, consumers use smartphones for everything from booking restaurants to shopping. So, all three companies are investing in similar businesses to attract the same users.
For instance, Baidu invested about $600 million in Uber and agreed to help expand the U.S. taxi-hailing app in China last month. Last week, Alibaba led a $600 million funding round for Kuaidi Dache, the largest taxi hailing service in China. Tencent owns a stake in Didi Dache, another dominant player in the industry.