Like players snatching up properties in the early rounds of a Monopoly game, Chinese e-Commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com have both been busily adding physical retailers to their portfolios. Alibaba went on a $1.3 billion buying spree prior to the lunar New Year on Feb. 16, 2018, buying a stake in Beijing Easyhome Furnishing and another in the big data firm Shiji Retail Information Technology.
Now, JD.com and its frequent partner Tencent have made the next move. Each has purchased a minority stake in Better Life, a Chinese retail conglomerate operating nearly 600 locations, including department stores, supermarkets and convenience stores.
The clash of titans is forcing retailers to pick sides as both Alibaba and JD.com go after shares of Chinese consumers’ digital wallets. Since the beginning of 2017, the two companies have spent more than $10 billion on retail-focused deals, according to Reuters.
In a filing on Feb. 23, Better Life revealed that Tencent paid approximately $140 million for a 6% stake in the retailer, while JD.com paid $117 million for a 5% stake, according to TechCrunch. In December 2017, the two companies invested a total of $863 million in Vipshop, an online discount retailer focusing on the fashion space.
Tencent, a social media giant in China, has made additional moves into the brick-and-mortar world in recent months. Along with Chinese retailer Yonghui Stores, Tencent bought a stake in Carrefour China in January, gaining an opportunity to expand its WeChat mobile payment service. Carrefour operates more than 200 stores in China, while Yonghui operates approximately 600 supermarkets.
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