Thursday, November 17, 2005

Chinese Internet star Alibaba.com vows to beat Google

Chinese Internet firm Alibaba.com has vowed to defeat US giant Google in the battle to become the dominant search engine for the potentially lucrative Chinese market.

Alibaba.com chief executive Jack Ma said his company was the undisputed king of the web in China after seeing off e-Bay and taking over Yahoo's Chinese operations in an August deal that secured a billion dollars of investment.

Ma said Google was vulnerable in China and that Alibaba would focus on building up its search engine to keep out Google.

Speaking to reporters at a meeting of Asia Pacific leaders in the South Korean city of Busan, Ma said Alibaba.com -- through its electronic retail unit taobao.com -- had already defeated e-commerce rival e-Bay.

He said Alibaba.com was over 20 times bigger than e-Bay and has 11 million product listings on its website.

"The game is almost over, finished. I'm not interested in that competition at all," Ma declared, referring to e-Bay.

"For the search engine, I think Google is very powerful. But it is not that powerful in China now," said Ma, who founded Alibaba.com in 1999 with 2,000 dollars of capital borrowed from relatives.

Asked to spell out Alibaba.com's strategy, Ma said: "We win e-Bay, buy Yahoo and stop Google. That is for fun. Competition is for fun."

He accepted that Google and Yahoo were the dominant Internet powers in Europe and the United States, but he said neither was that strong in Asia.

"I call them sharks in the ocean. We are crocodiles in the Yangtze River. If we fight in the Yangtze River, we have more chances than they have."

In August, Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) bought 40 percent of Alibaba for one billion dollars and turned over its Chinese operations to help it grow faster in the Chinese market.

The joint venture created a combined entity valued at four billion dollars, with access to China's more than 100 million Internet users.

"We will use all the resources we have to focus on search in the next two to three years in China ... We already won (over) e-Bay, we already bought Yahoo and the money is to stop Google," Ma said.

Alibaba.com plans to expand in South Korea in the next two to three years, and later the Japanese market. While it also plans to boost its presence in Europe, its focus would remain in China and Asia.

A public listing for the company may only happen in three to five years, Ma said, adding that any decision on the matter must be taken for very good reasons.

Ma forecast China will become the "number one Internet country" in the world in five years.

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