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Rumor: Amazon China to Partner with Alibaba, Join Tmall?


We try to avoid reporting rumors that rely solely on the testimony of completely anonymous sources, but this one is just to weird not to pass along: Sina Tech is reporting, citing a “knowledgable source”, that Amazon is considering a strategic shift in its e-commerce business in China that would see the company partnering with competitor Alibaba and joining Tmall. Details on how that would work are scant, obviously, but Amazon International supposedly met with people from Tmall a couple of weeks ago to discuss the possibility of a partnership. When contacted by Sina Tech for comment, Amazon China told the website that it wasn’t aware of this situation.

That raises a number of intriguing possibilities. Has Amazon’s international leadership decided it’s time to cut bait in China? Its site is by no means a failure, but it certainly doesn’t have the kind of commanding e-commerce market share that Amazon enjoys elsewhere in the world. Is Amazon China opposed to this change, or unaware that it’s something that’s being explored? We’ve contacted both Amazon for comment, and will update this post if we hear something tangible back. Alibaba doesn’t comment on rumors.

Amazon China has around a 3 percent share of the B2C e-commerce market in China — compare that with Tmall’s 54 percent — so it’s possible that someone at Amazon has done the math and determined that the company would make more money if it shifts from an Alibaba competitor to a partner. But if I had to guess, I’d say the recent meeting (assuming it really happened) was more likely a discussion about offering Amazon’s recently-launched Kindle line on Tmall through an Amazon branded store, rather than a discussion about a broader partnership that would reshape Amazon’s whole approach to e-commerce in the country.

Still, you never know. This is one to take with quite a few grains of salt, but it’s also one to keep a close eye on.

(Sina Tech via TechWeb, image source)

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