Alibaba Group has acquired about RMB 4.36 billion ($635 million) worth of convertible bonds in Red Star Macalline, one of China’s biggest furniture retailers. If converted, this would give Alibaba about a 10% stake in the company. It also purchased 3.7% of Red Star Macalline’s publicly traded shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to a disclosure.
Red Star Macalline operates about 300 shopping malls and 364 home improvement centers throughout China, leasing space to retailers in addition to selling its own inventory and services, including interior decoration consultations and construction. The company will work together with Alibaba to improve its physical stores and take advantage of the latter’s e-commerce channels.
This investment comes about six months after Red Star Macalline announced a digital marketing partnership with Alibaba rival Tencent. TechCrunch has contacted Alibaba and Tencent for more information on how Alibaba’s new stake might affect the earlier deal.
Alibaba’s Home Times, a retail chain it opened in late 2017, gives a look into what it might do with Red Star Macalline’s malls and online operations. Home Times emphasizes offline-to-online retail, enabling customers to scan products for more information and pay for them with Alipay, and has large screens that let shoppers see how items will look in their homes. Customers’ shopping behavior is then used by Tmall, Alibaba’s business-to-consumer e-commerce site, to pick products to add to stores in different locations, making inventory management more efficient.