22 March 2019

Wanda, Alibaba chiefs bet again — this time it’s on O2O

The much-hyped 100 million yuan (US$16.44 million) wager between the mainland’s “richest” man and its king of e-commerce appears to be off, with the bettor declaring it was all a joke.

On China Central Television a year ago, Dalian Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin {王健林} and Alibaba founder Jack Ma {馬雲} had a tit-for-tat exchange over the country’s outlook, at the end of which Wang bet 100 million yuan that e-commerce would not have half of the retail market by 2020. Ma immediately accepted, saying that he was sure to win.

Just one year later, Wang is backtracking, playing down his comments on Tuesday by saying he never took the bet on the program seriously. But while he still refused to concede to Ma, Wang surprised the market with plans to turn that antagonism into cooperation.

Wang announced that his brick-and-mortar commercial empire will join forces with Ma in an online venture later this month. The combination is highly anticipated since Wanda Group, Wang’s investment flagship, is China’s largest non-listed commercial property company, while Alibaba is the country’s premier e-shopping platform.

Although Wang did not say much about the tie-up, he made it clear that the new venture is not simply to put property up for sale online. Instead, it will combine e-vendors with real-world stores using an online-to-offline (O2O) model.

It is too early to judge what synergies the deal will bring but given the captive markets they have in the virtual universe and physical world, a unified front by Alibaba and Wanda will certainly unsettle electrical appliance retailer and fledgling O2O player Suning Commerce Group (002024.CN).

– Contact the writer at [email protected]



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