Exploring new business opportunities in the U.S. and Asia, Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba has announced two separate deals with Lending Club and Meizu Technology Co. The agreements – one a partnership and the other an equity investment – continue a flurry of recent moves by Alibaba designed to advance its technology and entice more American businesses to use its digital platforms.
First, announced last week, Alibaba teamed with Lending Club to help U.S. companies more easily buy from China-based suppliers. U.S. firms can apply for short-term credit of up to $300,000 to purchase items from Chinese manufacturers that occupy Alibaba’s online platforms. Monthly interest rates range between 0.5% to 2.4%, which are below levels traditionally offered by other lenders, like banks.
“We want to make financing as efficient as possible for the millions of U.S. buyers that do business through Alibaba.com and are pleased to bring Lending Club’s simple, low cost and transparent financing products to our U.S. buyers,” said Michael Lee, Alibaba.com’s global marketing and business development director, in a statement.
In the second deal, made public yesterday, Alibaba is taking a $590 million stake in Chinese smartphone maker Meizu. At least initially, Alibaba doesn’t have plans to introduce its own smartphones to the market – instead it appears Alibaba wants to push its mobile operating system through Meizu’s handsets. Meizu, meanwhile, will gain access to Alibaba’s e-commerce sales channels – a possible boon for a company that only has 2% of the smartphone market in China. “The investment in Meizu represents a significant expansion of the Alibaba Group ecosystem,” said Jian Wang, chief technology officer of Alibaba.
Last month, Alibaba reported revenues in its third quarter were 26.2 billion yuan ($4.2 billion), a 40% year-over-year rise, but still below consensus forecasts. The company’s stock (NYSE: BABA) initially fell 8.8% percent to $89.81 per share and has trended lower since, opening this morning at $87.01 per share. Alibaba, which sells thousands of products – including ad specialties – on its Web platforms raised $25 billion in its much-publicized IPO last September.