Alibaba is buying Chinese mall operator Intime for $2.6B to modernize offline retail

Alibaba is continuing its efforts to get into and modernize offline retail after the e-commerce giant lodged a $2.6 billion offer to fully acquire Intime.

Alibaba bought a stake in the firm for $692 million nearly three years ago, but now it is bidding to buy it outright and delist it from the Hong Kong stock exchange. Intime operates 29 department stores and 17 shopping malls across urban China which could give Alibaba a strong foothold. Many believe online and offline commerce to be at odds with one another, but the strategy for Alibaba is to focus on offline-to-online, a buzzy phrase for connecting brick and mortar sellers with the internet.

“Our combination with Intime will enable us to tap into the long-term growth potential of a new form of retail in China powered by internet technology and data,” Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang commented.

Alibaba wants retailers to make use of its services to not only reach new customers, but improve management of inventories, offer more compelling marketing and promotions, integrate digital payments and, generally, make their engagement with consumers longer-lasting and stronger.

“We don’t divide the world into real or virtual economies, only the old and the new. Those who cling on to the old ways of retailing will be disrupted, and brick-and-mortar businesses will be able to create value for consumers if they are integrated with the power of mobile reach, real-time consumer insights, and technology capability to improve operating efficiency,” Zhang added.

Intime aside, Alibaba invested $4.6 billion to buy up 20 percent of retail giant Sunning in a deal that was also made in 2015.