June 11 - Alibaba is launching 11main, an online market place that will compete with Amazon and other online retailers, just as it announces another deal- this one to buy UCWeb . Bobbi Rebell reports.
Alibaba unveiled its new U.S. website, "11main", greeting U.S. customers with a home page saying "opening soon". Part of a ramp up of its international expansion ahead of its expected $140 billion dollar initial public offering. The site takes aim at Amazon and eBay, but with a boutique feel. Forrester's Kelland Willis: SOUNDBITE: KELLAND WILLIS, ASSOCIATE ANALYST, FORRESTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think that in the immediate future this isn't going to be a massive threat to amazon and eBay. They only have about a thousand vendors right now, meaning that their product inventory is quite low. But as they continue to develop their offering, I think that Amazon and eBay need to watch out, especially given that Alibaba has acquired companies that right now are directly servicing eBay, for example Auctiva and Vendio." And that's where things get really interesting. Because those two companies, that Alibaba bought in 2010, help businesses sell on eBay and Amazon's websites. And it is those businesses that helped conceive and create 11main- now their rival. Alibaba has been on a buying spree, just Wednesday announcing plans to buy the remaining shares of mobile browser company UCWeb. That helps it against its rival Tencent, owner of WeChat. Alibaba's latest deal- the biggest merger in Chinese internet history- comes on the heels of a string of investments that already total nearly $10 billion since the beginning of last year. All of which raises its profile ahead of the IPO: SOUNDBITE: KELLAND WILLIS, ASSOCIATE ANALYST, FORRESTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I don't know if any other online player has invested so much in becoming this e-commerce super power and up until now mobile and social have been Alibaba's achilles heel but now with the acquisition of UCWeb they are going to be able to get into a space that traditionally they have been somewhat weak in. " And it recently set up an investment division in the U.S., which follows its $200 million investment in American retail site Shoprunner.