Sat, Jun 03, 2017 - Page 12 News List

Alibaba and SF Express clash over data access


China’s wealthiest man, Jack Ma (馬雲), has locked horns with the nation’s fourth-richest in an escalating dispute over the lucrative business of shipping Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s (阿里巴巴) parcels to millions of shoppers nationwide.

In an exchange filing yesterday billionaire Wang Wei’s (王衛) SF Holding Co (順豐控股) accused Alibaba’s delivery affiliate of removing the company as a shipping option and blocking access to vital data.

The affiliate backed by Ma, known as Cainiao (菜鳥), fired back by saying it was SF that first walled off information it needed to get parcels to customers.

It is unclear what triggered the spat, which threatens a symbiotic relationship that underpinned SF’s listing this year and helped Wang accumulate a fortune of about US$21.5 billion.

Alibaba’s part-owned Cainiao depends on services such as SF Express (順豐快遞) — the largest of a handful of domestic delivery businesses — to get parcels to customers’ doorsteps.

However, the falling out was serious enough that China’s postal bureau, which also regulates the industry, urged both parties to resolve their differences as soon as possible to avoid throwing the market into disarray.

The dispute might have arisen over a desire to control the valuable customer information generated through the millions of orders and shipments that flow through Alibaba’s massive e-commerce operation.

SF would not provide data Cainiao demanded last month, because they were not relevant, the delivery firm said in a microblog post on Sina Weibo (新浪微博) on Thursday.

“The heart of this conflict revolves around how Cainiao wants access to SF’s data and SF getting more reluctant,” said Marie Sun, a Shenzhen-based analyst at Morningstar Investment Service.

“SF probably wants to maximize its own interest and in the short term it has options to work with other e-commerce platforms,” she said.

Cainiao and SF Express have been close partners in a parcel delivery business underpinning China’s 6.2 trillion yuan (US$910 billion) online retail market. Alibaba’s 450 million active buyers helped spur more than 30 billion express deliveries in China last year, a significant proportion of which were shipped via Shenzhen-listed SF.

Wang’s company said Cainiao accounts for about a fifth of its total deliveries, though it maintained the dispute would not affect the company’s profit projections for this year and next.

“We are surprised and disappointed by SF’s abrupt action to stop providing the information that is necessary for the smooth completion of parcel deliveries,” Cainiao said in an e-mailed statement.

“To protect more than a million of consumers and merchants from potential parcel losses, we have no option but to remove SF as a delivery option on Cainiao’s network,” it said.

SF declined to comment on the latest developments.

Zhejiang Cainiao Supply Chain Management Co (浙江菜鳥供應鏈管理), of which Alibaba owns 48 percent, has been building a software platform to connect other delivery providers and speed the shipment of packages across China.

Alibaba’s shoppers can track their parcels via Cainiao, while actual delivery is carried out by third-party services such as SF Express.

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