Regulators fined Alibaba a record-breaking penalty while Shanghai-based English-language food delivery service Sherpa’s is penalized for dominating a niche market. Authorities punished package delivery service firms Baishi Express and J&T Express for price dumping. Trip.com filed for a secondary listing in Hong Kong. Produce e-commerce platform MissFresh prepares for a June public listing in the US.
China’s e-commerce and retail market offers a fire hose of products, choices, business models, rapidly changing content, and more. Here’s what you need to know about China’s online retail market for the week of April 8 – 14.
Forced exclusivity on platforms
- The State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), China’s top antitrust regulator, fined e-commerce giant Alibaba RMB 18.2 billion ($2.8 billion) on Saturday for “forced exclusivity,” a practice in which platforms force merchants to use only one company’s platform or services. The penalty is equivalent to 4% of the group’s 2019 revenue. (TechNode)
- Alibaba chairman Daniel Zhang promised to end forced exclusivity practices in a Monday briefing. He also said that the company would spend billions to lower merchant costs, including investment in merchant training and the development of the merchant back end workstation. Shares in Hong Kong for Alibaba Group jumped 8% on Monday morning. (TechNode)
- Regulators also announced on Monday a RMB 1.2 million penalty for Shanghai-based food delivery app Sherpa’s. The Shanghai Municipal Administration for Market Regulation (SMAMR) concluded that the company has dominated a separate, English-language food delivery market and does not compete against industry leaders Meituan and Ele.me. (TechNode)
- The Yiwu Post Management Bureau cracked down on delivery services Baishi Express and J&T Express for price-dumping, partially closing their distribution centers on Friday in the county-level city of Yiwu, an important coordination point for eastern Zhejiang province. The action followed an April 6 letter stating that the companies had received warnings on four separate occasions to halt artificially lowering prices beyond the industry standard of RMB 1.4 per order. The Bureau had asked Baishi Express and J&T Express to resolve the issue by Friday. (21st Century Business Herald, in Chinese)
- Pinduoduo issued a statement on Monday clarifying that the company does not have a special collaboration or investment relationship with J&T Express. In the process of securing new clients, J&T employees had told merchants that if they used J&T Express to fulfill their Pinduoduo orders, they would be exempt from fees related to faked orders created by “brushing,” Pinduoduo said. The e-commerce giant added that any previous collaboration with J&T Express during the Spring Festival period ended on Feb. 22. (Sina)
- Share prices for Chinese delivery and logistics giant SF Holding dropped by the Shenzhen exchange’s limit on Monday for a second day in a row, lopping a total of RMB 70 billion ($10.7 billion) from its market cap. SF Holding warned Thursday that it was expecting first quarter losses due to higher labor costs and new business development, a first since going public in 2017. Founder Wang Wei said that the company will not “blindly burn cash” to expand and has promised that there will be no losses in the current quarter. (Yicai Global)
Funding and IPOs
- Baidu-backed travel booking site Trip.com aims to raise $1.4 billion in its secondary listing in Hong Kong. The company began selling shares on Thursday at $42.95, an 11% premium to its closing price of $38.81 at its primary listing venue on the Nasdaq. The sale, which ended April 13, comes with the slow recovery of the leisure travel market. (South China Morning Post)
- Chinese grocery e-commerce platform MissFresh submitted its prospectus to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) earlier this week, targeting a valuation north of $500 million. Apart from operating its grocery delivery service in 16 major Chinese cities, MissFresh announced on March 26 that it will build a digital platform for community retail, which will support local supermarkets, vegetable markets, and small stores. (PanDaily)
- Suning Retail Cloud, a subsidiary of smart retail service provider Suning.com, announced Monday that it had completed its Series A financing. Concentrated in lower-tier cities and county-level markets, Suning Retail Cloud uses a franchise model to provide Suning.com’s logistics, warehouse, supply chain, and SaaS capabilities to small, medium, and micro businesses in rural areas. More than 3,200 retail cloud franchise stores opened in 2020, and 600 more have been added in 2021. (Suning Blog)
- Online real estate vertical Anjuke filed for a listing in Hong Kong on Thursday, with BofA Securities, Credit Suisse, and CICC serving as joint sponsors. The Tencent-backed company finished a $250 million financing round led by Country Garden’s affiliate Beam Merit Limited in March. (Deal Street Asia)
The Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said on Friday that it concluded an investigation into secondhand marketplace Xianyu. The Alibaba-owned e-commerce platform had been summoned for publishing illegal real estate listings and information, and for allowing unlicensed brokers to use its site. (National Business Daily, in Chinese)
- Douyin e-commerce president, Kang Zeyu, said during an event on Thursday that “interest e-commerce” is a valuable opportunity, with estimated GMV to exceed RMB 9.5 trillion by 2023, according to third-party calculations. The entertainment app’s shift into content-driven e-commerce follows a trend of using content to understand user interests and what they could potentially purchase. (Company statement)