Alibaba’s Russian Joint Venture Ready for Launch, Usmanov Says

Chinese electronic commerce company Alibaba, Russian mobile operator Megafon, internet company Group and the Russian direct investment fund RDIF are now at the final stage of negotiations on founding a joint venture, Russian businessman and owner Alisher Usmanov said in an interview with Russia 24 TV.

Under the deal, Alibaba will sell stakes in its subsidiary AliExpress Russia to its partners. Alibaba Group will hold a 48 percent stake, Megafon will own a 24 percent stake, Group will have 15 percent and RDIF will own 13 percent of the joint venture.

Alibaba Group will contribute the AliExpress business in Russia and the Russian part of Tmall to the joint venture, as well as continue to invest in the joint venture, Group will invest in Pandao’s marketplace, cash and distribution in the format of integration with Group products, and Megafon will sell Alibaba Group its 10% in Group, receiving in return a share in AliExpress Russia, reports said.

The mega joint venture, worth around $2 billion, was first announced in September. The Chinese company said the aim is to create a one-stop destination for consumers to communicate, socialize, shop and play games, all within the same online ecosystem. A Financial Times article at the time likened the venture to a digital version of China’s Silk Road initiative.

Russia is said to have over 70 million internet users, around half of its population, with countless more attracted from Russian-speaking neighboring countries. The numbers are projected to rise as, like in many parts of the world, the growth of smartphones brings more people online.