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E-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding and short video-sharing app operator Kuaishou Technology made significant gains in the first week of February. Photos: Bloomberg

Inside China Tech: Big week for Alibaba, Kuaishou’s trading debut pops and the firm powering social-media hit Clubhouse

  • Alibaba pushes US$5 billion bond sale on the back of strong quarterly financial results and affiliate Ant Group’s overhaul plan
  • Kuaishou eyes new opportunities and challenges after its blockbuster trading debut in Hong Kong

Sentiment improves for Alibaba

Paraphrasing a famous quote from Abraham Lincoln, market sentiment is everything. And in the case of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, positive market sentiment is giving it a much-needed boost.
Alibaba, the parent company of the South China Morning Post, is riding on that improved view of the firm amid preparation for a US$5 bond sale – its first foray into the international debt markets since 2017 – that has already received strong investment grade ratings.
The offering comes after the Hangzhou-based company reported a 37 per cent surge in revenue to US$33.9 billion in its financial third quarter ended December, bolstered by its extended Singles’ Day campaign last year when it posted a record US$74.1 billion in sales.
The prospects for the bond sale also received a lift from news that China’s financial regulators and Alibaba affiliate Ant Group have agreed on a plan to overhaul the world’s largest financial technology company, months after the Alipay operator’s US$34.5 billion dual listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong was abruptly shelved by authorities.
Employees walk through the campus of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding’s headquarters in Hangzhou on January 20, 2021. Photo: Bloomberg
Alibaba’s senior management also provided some answers to questions about the company’s stand on the government’s antitrust investigation and the rectification efforts of Ant Group.
“As a China retail marketplace connecting hundreds of millions of consumers and millions of merchants in transactions valued at trillions of yuan, we have a deep appreciation of the significant social and public responsibilities of operating our platform,” said Daniel Zhang Yong, chairman and chief executive of Alibaba, in a conference call with analysts on Tuesday after the firm reported its latest financial results.


China kicks off antitrust probes into Alibaba over alleged monopolistic practices

China kicks off antitrust probes into Alibaba over alleged monopolistic practices

Alibaba has established a special task force with leaders from relevant business units to conduct internal reviews, as part of its efforts to cooperate with the antitrust investigation under the State Administration of Market Regulation.

On Ant Group, Zhang indicated that Alibaba was unable to make a complete and fair assessment based on the changing fintech regulatory landscape. “We will update the market once Ant Group has completed the relevant regulatory procedures for its rectification plan,” he said.

Alibaba says its cloud computing business holds tremendous potential as China picks up pace on digitalisation drive

Kuaishou eyes fresh opportunities, challenges

Short video-sharing app operator Kuaishou Technology just made a killing on the Hong Kong stock exchange, where its shares began trading on Friday at nearly triple their offer price of HK$115. Internet giant Tencent Holdings has a 17.7 per cent stake in the company.
That surge valued Kuaishou as much as US$182.8 billion, providing the 10-year-old unprofitable company with fresh ammunition in its rivalry with ByteDance-owned Douyin, TikTok’s sister app, in China.
“The listing in Hong Kong represents the starting point whereby [the company] will see even greater challenges and opportunities going forward,” Kuaishou co-founder and chief executive Su Hua said in a speech uploaded on Weixin, the Chinese-language version of social-media super app WeChat.
Kuaishou Technology’s short video-sharing app is downloaded on a smartphone on February 2, 2021. Photo: Bloomberg
Kuaishou has a big issue of how to translate its 300 million daily active users into a profit-generating resource.
Another issue that recently surfaced was that its platform has more than 155 million videos that use unauthorised copies of sound recordings as background music, according to an allegation made by trade body China-Audio Video Copyright Association, which published its takedown notice on its website.
To help drive up user numbers and revenue, Kuaishou has started to nurture smaller live-streaming video influencers, as the company builds up its e-commerce capabilities. The move is essential for the platform to grow and build a more diversified community of streamers, according to a report by Post reporters Iris Deng and Tracy Qu.

That approach pivots away from the company’s model of creating internet stars from six tight-knit clans of streamers with outsize influence online.


It remains to be seen how successful Kuaishou will be in this new direction.

Kuaishou: live-streaming e-commerce holds promise for future profitability but remains clouded by regulatory uncertainty

Agora who?

That question may not age well, as the Chinese-founded technology company Agora has become the latest go-to bet for investors. News has spread that its software is behind popular invitation-only audio-chat app Clubhouse.

Nasdaq-listed Agora recently announced that an accredited investor it would not name had agreed to buy US$250 million of its newly issued class A ordinary shares through a private placement. That represents about 4.5 per cent of its total outstanding shares.

Agora provides developers simple, flexible and powerful application programming interfaces, or APIs, to embed real-time video and voice engagement experiences into their apps, according to the company.

Invitation-only audio-chat social networking app Clubhouse was launched in April 2020. Photo: Shutterstock

Neither Clubhouse nor Agora have confirmed the relationship, and Agora has declined to comment. A person familiar with the matter, however, confirmed to the


that Clubhouse uses Agora.

Agora was started in 2014 by co-founders Tony Wang and Tony Zhao, formerly the chief technology officer at Chinese live-streaming giant YY

The interest in Clubhouse, meanwhile, has encouraged tech entrepreneur Justin Sun, founder of cryptocurrency platform Tron, to launch China’s version of Clubhouse, called Two.