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Chinese Powerhouse Alibaba Has a New Growth Plan

Correction appended March 31, 2014

Chinese Internet giant Alibaba is no longer content to just conduct its business online. The company announced today that it is buying a large stake in Chinese department-store owner Intime Retail in order to gain a greater presence in physical stores.

Alibaba will pay $692 million in the deal, which will give the company at least 25 percent ownership of Intime. According to Bloomberg, Alibaba and Intime Retail will form a joint venture to bring Intime’s offline inventory to Alibaba’s online shoppers. Customers will also be able to pick up products ordered online in Intime stores. The deal will also yield a tighter integration of Alipay, Alibaba’s online payments service, inside Intime’s stores. In 2013, Alipay processed $150 billion worth of mobile transactions, which Alibaba has claimed is more than PayPal and Square combined.

Alibaba has been on an investment spree in the runup to its planned public offering in the U.S. The company invested $215 million in an American messaging app called Tango earlier this month and made an offer to buy out the Chinese mapping service Auto Navi for $1.13 billion in February. Other Chinese tech giants, such as Tencent Holdings and Baidu, have also been making huge investments recently in gaming, messaging and retail.

The highly anticipated Alibaba IPO is expected to be one of the largest ever for an Internet company. It could value the firm at as much as $200 billion.

Correction: The original story misstated the stake Alibaba is buying in Intime Retail. Alibaba is purchasing at least 25 percent of the company.

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