Alibaba Group's recent senior management reshuffle may signal that the mainland's biggest e-commerce portal is paving the way to spin off other units after the successful listing of Alibaba.com in October, according to market watchers.
They said the group would most likely spin off its auction site, Taobao.com, and online payment network, Alipay.com, once they established profitable operations.
Alibaba Group also fully owns three other units - software developer Alisoft.com, internet portal Yahoo China and online advertiser Alimama.com.
Alibaba Group said on Monday that Alipay's present head Jonathan Lu would replace Toto Sun as Taobao.com's president from March 1. The group's vice-president Shao Xiaofeng will take over as Alipay's executive president.
'The new appointments should bring new ideas or strategies to both businesses (Alipay and Taobao) to strengthen their business models,' a Beijing-based internet stock analyst said yesterday.
'The group will certainly take other assets for individual listings. Taobao.com would be one of the candidates for a spin-off, as it runs an attractive business in the mainland's e-commerce sector,' he said.
Taobao's number of registered users jumped 116 per cent last year to more than 30 million, while its transaction volume surged 110 per cent to more than US$2.18 billion.
Other personnel changes include Yahoo China's president Zeng Ming taking over as head of the group's strategy division on January 1. He will be replaced by Alibaba Group vice-president Jin Jianhang.
Alibaba Group chief operating officer Li Qi, chief technology officer John Wu, senior vice-president Li Xufai, and Mr Sun will take sabbatical study leave starting next year.
The company said those managers would remain under Alibaba Group's employment but would not be paid. It did not say when the sabbatical periods would end.
'We need to establish the best management team and our managers need a global vision and insight,' Alibaba Group's chairman Jack Ma said in a press release.
The company's e-commerce portal Alibaba.com raised more than HK$10 billion in its initial public offering and was one of Hong Kong's most popular new offerings this year.
The group's management reshuffle had 'no impact on the listed company', an Alibaba.com spokesperson said yesterday.