Alibaba Is Said to Mull Buying Rocket Internet's Pakistan Unit

(Bloomberg) -- Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is considering acquiring Rocket Internet’s online retail unit in Pakistan to help China’s biggest e-commerce company expand its reach in the South Asian nation, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

The companies are negotiating a price for Rocket’s retail unit Daraz, according to the person, who asked not to be identified since the discussions are private. The deliberations are an early state and no decisions have been made, the person said. Alibaba’s spokesman declined to comment, while Daraz didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The development comes after Alibaba’s Ant Financial decided to purchase a 45 percent stake in Telenor Microfinance Bank, a subsidiary of Telenor Group, for $184.5 million last week to further develop mobile payment and digital financial services in the nation of more than 200 million people. Elsewhere in Asia, Alibaba is gearing up for an intense battle in Singapore, where Inc. has started operations and Sea Ltd.’s Shopee is expanding to win consumers.

Pakistan’s burgeoning youth has turned the nation into the world’s fastest growing retail market with stores and e-commerce both growing together, bucking the trend in many developing nations. Pakistan’s market may expand 8.2 percent a year through 2016-2021 as disposable income rises, according to research group Euromonitor International.

Pakistan has 30 million active Internet users, and brands are redoubling their attention to e-commerce, Daraz said in a statement last month. Alibaba’s interest in Pakistan comes on the back of Beijing’s financing of about $60 billion in infrastructure projects across the country as part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road trade initiative.

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