Alibaba buys Pakistan’s Daraz to expand its e-commerce empire into South Asia

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Alibaba has expanded its e-commerce empire into South Asia after the Chinese internet giant acquired Daraz in an undisclosed deal.

Daraz was founded in 2012 by Rocket Internet and today it operates in Pakistan as well as Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Rocket said in a statement that Alibaba has acquired the entire Daraz business. The deal is the second time Alibaba has bought a Rocket company, the first being Lazada in Southeast Asia two years ago.

An Alibaba spokesperson confirmed the deal but the company hasn’t made an official announcement.

Rumors of a deal have been rife for the past couple of months, with Bloomberg reporting in March that acquisition talks were ongoing.

The deal is part of Alibaba’s second wave of international expansions which see it enter South Asia.

The company initially focused on India — where it has backed Paytm — and Southeast Asia with Lazada, but this year it has spread its wings into lower profile but hugely populous countries in South Asia. Pakistan, for example, has a population of over 190 million. The acquisition of Daraz follows a fintech investment from Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, which runs Alipay and other Alibaba financial services.

Back in March, Ant paid $184.5 million for a 45 percent stake in Telenor Microfinance Bank, a fintech division from Norwegian operator Telenor, which operates Pakistan’s second largest telco. That one-two punch of e-commerce and fintech (particularly payments) is a common move from Alibaba-Ant, which has made similar deals in India and across Southeast Asia.

Beyond Pakistan, it looks like Alibaba is also eying nearby Bangladesh, which has a popular of over 160 million and rising internet adoption.

According to reports last month, the Chinese firm is pushing to buy a 20 percent chunk of payment firm bKash, a move that would again push its reach deeper into South Asia.

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