China’s biggest e-commerce company, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., has expanded its offline retail presence after it spent another billion dollars into plans as part of its pushing into “new retail” strategy which combines online and offline.

Alibaba has bought up a 15 percent stake in a chain of Chinese home improvement and furniture stores, Beijing Easyhome Furnishing Chain Store Group Co., for RMB 5.45 billion, or around $867 million, and injected $486 million into a domestic big-data firm, Shiji Retail Information Technology Co.

Beijing Easyhome has 223 physical home furnishing and DIY-style stores across 29 provinces in China, which makes it the country’s second largest in its field.

Alibaba said it would hand support in the digital transformation of Beijing Easyhome’s stores by applying its expertise in cloud and logistics platform. This deal would be Alibaba's fourth major investment in a brick and mortar chain. Last year, it acquired major holdings in China’s leading hypermarket firm, Sun Art Retail Group, for $2.9 billion, and shopping mall operator, In Time, for $2.6 billion.

The second investment accounts for a 38 percent stake in Shinji Retail Information Tech, a report said, which focuses on hotels and high-street retailers on data-related services to lift customer football, expand engagement and more.

The e-commerce giant’s vision for the future of retail lets consumers to shop-in while using the benefits of mobile. For instance, testing items in-person before buying or going to a store if there are problems with their purchased item, etc.

These latest deals of Alibaba arrived just before Chinese New Year, and a little over a week after it invested $500 million to support two of India’s most prominent on-demand startups, e-grocer Big Basket and food delivery platform Zomato, where Alibaba made $300 and $200 million investments, respectively.


Walt Disney and Alibaba Seal Deal

Alibaba’s video streaming platform, Youku, has struck a deal with Walt Disney to serve as China’s most comprehensive destination for Disney animations.

Under the multi-year licensing agreement, Youku subscribers will have access to more than 1,000 episodes of Disney animates series, via PC and mobile, and OTT platforms chosen by Alibaba via SmartTV and some 30 million set-top boxes. For the first two years, up to 600 episodes will be exclusive to Alibaba’s distribution channels.

Classic animated series covered by the deal include “Duck Tales” and “My Friends Tigger and Pooh.” Other episodes and series are not exclusive to Youku, and are available on other platforms.

Moreover, 100 live-action and animated Disney movies, including “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and animated classics “Beauty and the Beast,” “Mulan” and “Frozen,” are covered by the Youku deal.

“The addition of Disney content greatly enriches the library of quality international content on Alibaba’s media and entertainment ecosystem, giving us a leading edge in foreign content distribution in China,” Yang Weidong, President of Youku, Alibaba Digital Media, said in a statement.

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