Alibaba Group chairman Jack Ma Yun predicts that the mainland's e-commerce market is entering a "golden age", which will see 30 per cent of total retail sales moving online in the next five years.
In his keynote address at the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference yesterday, Ma said that was a "very conservative" growth forecast since he expected advances in mobile e-commerce and the domestic logistics infrastructure supporting online sales.
The event also served as the first public forum in which the Alibaba founder hinted about the company's possible initial public offering. Ma said privately held Alibaba "is making money" unlike other e-commerce firms on the mainland and elsewhere.
"I think when we do [an] IPO, you'll know the numbers."
An offering this year would value the firm at US$80 billion, Morgan Stanley said in a research note last month.
Ma, who will relinquish his role as Alibaba's chief executive on May 10, said the company's mobile e-commerce endeavours will likely involve mergers and acquisitions and recruiting key staff to stay ahead of the competition.
"We are working pretty hard [on our mobile strategy] and we have confidence, but we need some luck. Luck takes time," he said, adding that Tencent has had more success through its WeChat platform. Hong Kong-listed Tencent is China's biggest internet company.
Alibaba is also leading efforts to finance and establish a domestic logistics network. This will be able to support up to 10 trillion yuan (HK$12.35 trillion) in annual online sales when completed, enabling all package deliveries to be made within 24 hours across the mainland.
"I had hoped to retire, but that will be a project that will make me not retire for the next 10 years," Ma said. More than 70 per cent of all packages delivered every day across the mainland are generated by transactions on Alibaba's e-commerce platforms.
Alibaba, including its flagship Taobao online retail operations, was established in 1999. Ma said the group, which now consists of 25 business units, "makes up 5 per cent of the total retail market in [mainland] China" today.
The share of e-commerce in the United States was 5.4 per cent of total retail sales in the fourth quarter last year, according to the country's Census Bureau.