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Jeff Zhang, president of Alibaba Cloud, speaks at the Alibaba cloud summit in Beijing, Mar 21, 2019. Photo: Handout

Alibaba Cloud doubles down on Southeast Asia amid competition at home after clearing antitrust uncertainty

  • Unveiled during the Alibaba Cloud Summit 2021, the project forms part of its strategy to invest in infrastructure, technological innovation and talent
  • In the Philippines, Alibaba will launch its first data centre by the end of this year

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding is further expanding its cloud computing arm in Southeast Asia amid increased competition at home, pouring US$1 billion into a project that it says is aimed at supporting local talent and start-ups, soon after putting the uncertainty of China’s antitrust probes behind it.

The initiative, named Project AsiaForward, will seek to upskill local developers, small-to-medium-sized companies, and connect businesses with venture capital and opportunities, the company said on Tuesday at its Alibaba Cloud Summit 2021.

Alibaba Cloud said it will also launch its first data centre in the Philippines by the end of this year, and has already opened its third data centre in Indonesia. Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

In April, Alibaba was fined 18.2 billion yuan (US$2.8 billion) by the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) for “abusing its dominant market position” by forcing online merchants to exclusively use its platform in a breach of the country’s anti-monopoly law.

Created in 2009, Alibaba Cloud is China’s biggest cloud computing service provider, and is also the e-commerce giant’s second biggest revenue source after its core online sales business, contributing 7 per cent of company’s revenue in the quarter ending December last year.

Alibaba-backed Nice Tuan fined for failing to ‘correct’ its market behaviour

E-commerce accounted for nearly 70 per cent of revenue in the quarter, but it is facing increasing competition from rivals including Pinduoduo and JD.


In May, Pinduoduo reported that active buyers in the 12-month period ended March rose 31 per cent to 823.8 million from a year ago, surpassing Alibaba’s 811 million in the same quarter.

In the December quarter, Alibaba Cloud turned profitable for the first time as the Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses around the world to move online.

Alibaba was the world’s fourth-biggest cloud computing service provider in the quarter ended September last year. Photo: Handout

Selina Yuan, general manager of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence’s International Business Unit, said the company’s plans for the Asia Pacific region also include investments to facilitate the digital transformation of local businesses.

“We see these investments as all the more timely given the impact of the pandemic and the sharp rise in demand for digital business tools,” Yuan said.

Alibaba was the world’s fourth-biggest cloud computing service provider in the quarter ended September last year, behind Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft’s Azure and Google Cloud, according to a ranking by Canalys.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Alibaba set to expand profitable cloud arm