April 28, 2014, 4:30 PM

Alibaba invests in China’s largest online video company

Alibaba’s investment team is probably one of the busiest departments at Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., as the Chinese e-commerce giant has been investing in a handful of companies every month over the past few years.

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The latest target is China’s largest online video company, Youku Tudou Inc. Alibaba announced today it will buy an 18.5% stake in Youku Tudou for $1.22 billion.

Founded in 2006, Beijing-based Youku Tudou is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and reported $500.3 million revenue in 2013. Youku Tudou’s business model combines those of YouTube and Netflix, as its site offers both free video clips and paid content. Users can upload and watch video clips for free or they can pay 5 yuan (80 cents) to watch a movie such as the Disney film “Frozen.”

Alibaba chairman Jack Ma says the investment in Youku Tudou will further extend the Alibaba ecosystem and bring new products and services to Alibaba's customers.

Many Chinese consumers view Youku Tudou content on mobile devices. The company’s monthly active users from mobile devices now exceeds 150 million and the daily volume of videos played on mobile devices jumped 270% to 370 million at end of 2013 compared with the end of 2012.

Analysts say Youku Tudou could drive more traffic for Alibaba’s e-commerce site, including its two big online marketplaces Taobao and Tmall. The video site could also help Alibaba explore sales through web-connected TVs. By transaction volume, Alibaba has become the world’s largest e-commerce company.

Internet Retailer’s newly released China 500, which ranks China’s leading e-retailers by their annual web sales, estimates that consumers purchased $245 billion worth of goods and services on Alibaba’s marketplaces in 2013, 50% more than in 2012.

Alibaba has announced plans for an initial public offering of stock on a U.S. stock exchange, and analysts say the market may value the company at $150 billion or more.

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