Alibaba today announced it will invest $3.6 billion in Sun Art Retail Group, a huge hypermarket and supermarket operator in China. Sun Art is the largest retailer in China and competes head to head with Walmart. The transaction will give Alibaba a 72% controlling interest in the China-based brick and mortar retailer. Alibaba says that this purchase furthers its ‘New Retail’ strategy of integrating online and offline retail in China.
“Alibaba’s strategic investment in Sun Art in 2017 was an important step in our New Retail strategy,” says Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang. “The alliance we formed with Auchan Retail and Ruentex was instrumental in building a robust infrastructure to create opportunities and value in China’s retail sector. Led by Chief Executive Officer Peter Huang, Sun Art has achieved impressive results in its digitalization and pursued promising synergies with businesses across the Alibaba digital economy. As the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the digitalization of consumer lifestyles and enterprise operations, this commitment to Sun Art serves to strengthen our New Retail vision and serve more consumers with a fully integrated experience.”
In 2017 Alibaba entered into a strategic alliance to digitalize and introduce New Retail solutions at Sun Art stores. The company says that since then “Sun Art has made significant progress in the digital transformation under a fast-changing market environment by leveraging resources and technology from the Alibaba ecosystem, to capitalize on the growth opportunities in China’s hypermarket and supermarket space.”
This acquisition reflects a growing retail trend in China. Euromonitor International said in a report earlier this year that merger and acquisition activities are expected to continue in the forecast period. As China’s retailing industry modernizes it is undergoing a drastic digital transformation. The forecasting firm also said that sun Art held a 14.1% share of the country’s hypermarket sales last year. That compares to Walmart’s 10.3% market share in that category.
As of June 30, 2020, Sun Art operates 481 hypermarkets and 3 mid-size supermarkets in China, with a focus on strengthening its position through small and offline community stores.
Here is the official joint announcement of the acquisition.