Alibaba is set to gain full control of Ele.me as it revs up on its plan to have a stronger foothold in China's burgeoning market for quick delivery services.
A statement released by Alibaba hinted of an enterprise valuation for Ele.me pegged at $9.5 billion. However, the company has not given any exact figures on how much it's paying for the startup. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, its affiliate Ant Financial and Micro Financial Services Group Co. already have 43 percent of Ele.me's voting shares. The online retail giant has reportedly paid for the deal in cash and has already acquired all of Baidu Inc.'s shares.
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Ele.me, which roughly translates to “hungry yet?” operates a multitude of delivery personnel on motorbikes all across the country. The company is known for its 30-minute delivery commitment to users. Ele.me is also fighting for top spot in the local delivery service industry against Meituan Dianping, a fellow startup backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., a fierce rival of Alibaba.
Delivery service is one of the fastest growing industries in China as more and more consumers are using their mobile devices to order food, purchase movie tickets, schedule beauty treatments or book hotel rooms. Capturing this market is also a strategic move for both Alibaba and Tencent as it also puts their payment services systems in the spotlight.
The idea was mostly confirmed in an internal email sent by Daniel Zhang, Alibaba's chief executive officer to his staff. In it, Zhang emphasized how “food delivery is the single most important entry point in the local services sector because its one of the most commonly used applications."
“We can already see that a vast, multi-dimensional local instant delivery network formed through a food delivery service will be an essential piece of the commerce infrastructure,” Zhang wrote.
Alibaba's acquisition of Ele.me is just the latest in a series of moves aimed to help the company deal with an increasingly competitive environment. The company is also taking over delivery partner Cainiao and has recently invested another $2 billion in the Lazada Group.