360buy, the Chinese online general store, is reportedly launching an initial public offering next week to raise $4 to 5billion, which makes it the largest internet IPO ever.

360buy, according to people familiar with the matter, is picking underwriters for its IPO next week. The company is scheduled to go public in the first half of 2012.

According to market research firm Analysys International, 360buy is the second largest online B2C retailer in China, only next to TMall of Taobao. This April, the retailer raised $1.5 billion in Series C from various venture capitals including Tiger Fund and DST with a valuation of over $10b.

However, Liu Qiangdong, the founder and CEO of the giant online shop that delivers 3C products, foods and clothes to people in China, posted a message on weibo (pictured below) that indirectly denied the rumor:

“For next week I’ll be somewhere I don’t even know in Taklimakan desert.”

 

Acquires Online Drug Store

360buy has expanded its categories from 3C to almost all that you could expect from Walmart or any local stores, ranging from books, music, movies, home appliance, car accessories, furniture, shoe, hats, clothes, cosmetics, watches, foods, flight tickets to maternity-children products and instruments, you name it. But one thing is missing from the shopping empire is medicine, which has been proved to be a fruitful market.

According to the data released by CAPC, China Association of Pharmaceutical Commerce, the retail market for medicine in 2010 was like RMB173.9billion (US$27.2billion) while online sales contributed only 100 million to it. If we look at America, online sales take a big chunk of 30% in medicine retail market last year. There’s great potential in online drug store here in China. And it’s also a new profit source for B2C sites which have been seeing mounting competition and low profit for a long while.

360buy must have seen the opportunity in this untapped area, with an announcement last month disclosing its acquisition of 49% of Haoyaoshi Drug Store(好药师大药房), the company has finally set its foot on the lucrative and also risky forefront.

360buy now operates the online drug store independently by separate domain name(www.ehaoyao.com) without incorporating it into the main site, the same strategy as the company runs Qianxun.com, a B2C site focusing on female apparel the company acquired back in March, 2010.