Chinese ecommerce company Alibaba has confirmed it has made a major investment in an Asian shopping centre operator.
The firm, which is stepping up plans to float on the stock market later in the year, has invested 5.6 billion Hong Kong dollars (£415 million) on a ten per cent stake in Intime, with the money coming as a mixture of shares and cash.
Alibaba's share of the company could grow to as much as 25 per cent as a result of the deal, which Alibaba's chief operating officer Daniel Zhang explained is part of the company's move into the physical retail market.
Earlier in the month, Alibaba confirmed it will be floating on a US stock market in 2014, but the company is yet to give details on how much its shares will cost or which index will be used.
"Alibaba Group has decided to commence the process of an initial public offering in the US," a statement released by the firm read. "This will make us a more global company and enhance the company's transparency, as well as allow the company to continue to pursue our long-term vision and ideals."
Analysts are already predicting that Alibaba's stock market flotation could be one of the largest in recent years, even outstripping that of Facebook, which listed in 2012. Some specialists are claiming that the flotation of the ecommerce firm may raise as much as $15 billion (£9.01 billion).
The move for Intime comes only a few weeks after Alibaba snapped up a 60 per cent stake in Hong Kong-based television and media production firm Chinavision, while the company has also invested $215 million in chat application Tango recently.
Intime said in a statement to announce the news that Alibaba's investment would help "harness the latest internet technologies" to create a better shopping experience for its users.
Alibaba had originally announced it would float on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, before the company changed its mind and elected to sell its shares via a US index instead. Hong Kong Stock Exchange chief executive Charles Li said: "We respect the company's decision and wish it well. We are proud of our tradition of respect for the rule of law and adherence to principles."
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