In a never ending story between the seventeen years old company Yahoo and its Chinese counterpart Alibaba Group, we hear today that jack Ma, the wealthy entrepreneur behind the success of Alibaba, would buy back almost half of the 40 percent stake that Yahoo owns of Alibaba.
A very welcomed cash injection to Yahoo
The deals which is expected to be worth more than 7.1 US$ billion (6.3 US$ Billion in cash and up to 800 US Million in new Alibaba stock) would end the long discussion that have last during the past years on how Alibaba would reclaim some of the 40 percent stakes that Yahoo has bought in 2005.
This deal will allow Yahoo to deliver some values to their shareholders who have asked to receive dividends. Yahoo will also be able to make some acquisitions or buy back its own shares.
Yahoo has been trying during the past years to receive the benefit of its investment in Alibaba but has suffered from troubles linked to the changes in the top management.
Alibaba is heading to a possible IPO
Jack Ma, the current Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Group, said “This transaction opens a new chapter in our relationship with Yahoo.” He added that the two companies will still working together in the future. One of the possible strategic options may be that Yahoo helps Alibaba to expand beyond China and enters the US market.
Many analysts believe this new deal opens the way to an IPO in the next years, probably in 2015. In this case, Yahoo would still be able to keep a 10% share of Alibaba after a possible future listing.
Started in 1999 as a business to business company linking factories to buyers all over the world, Alibaba is now bigger than Yahoo and has more than 25000 employees working on different websites and online services. Its portfolio includes taobao.com, Tmall, Etao - a shopping search engine - and Alipay, an online payment system.
Jack Ma, Chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group, recently confirmed his strong interest in buying US Internet giant Yahoo, during a speech in a conference entitled "China's 2.0: Transforming Media and Commerce" at Stanford Graduate School of Business.
The video is really worth watching since Jack Ma also talks about ecommerce, notably about his companies Alibaba and Taobao, and explained how these company have succeeded, the mistakes they have made and the difficulties they now face.
Here is the full video:
Sogou is a search engine which can search text, images, music, and maps. Launched in 2004, it is owned by China's No. 2 Internet portal Sohu but Alibaba Group is going to buy shares. Sogou means "Search Dog" in Chinese.
Youdao is a search engine released by Chinese Internet company NetEase in 2007. It is the featured search engine of its parent company's web portal, 163.com, and lets users search for web pages, images, news, music, blogs, etc. Youdao roughly translates as “there's a way”.
Is Yahoo! China going to follow Yahoo! Japan in choosing Google as search partner?
The question could have seemed awkward a few weeks ago but it is now a topical issue. Indeed, despite a global search alliance between Microsoft and Yahoo! Inc, Yahoo! Japan! announced latest week its intention to team up with Google for search and ads.
Yahoo! China unlikely to choose Google
Google could come as the first choice since it leads the search market worldwide. However, the US firm faced a lot of problems in China this year, notably because it refused, after a serious hacking episode, to filter search results in order to comply with Chinese regulations.
After redirecting all queries from its Chinese site to its unfiltered Hongkongese site, Google decided in July to stop automatically redirecting its Chinese users and created a dedicated page on google.cn. After China's government gave Google the permission to continue its activities in China, things have cooled down a bit, but the situation still seems unstable.
Yahoo! China currently filters search results, so it is difficult to imagine Yahoo! China teaming up with Google.
Local Chinese search providers?
Others possibilities are offered to Yahoo! China such as going with local Chinese search providers like Baidu, Soso and Sohu (Sogou). The Chinese providers all have censored local search services that could fit into a deal with Alibaba Group which owns Yahoo! China.
Alibaba to develop search technology by itself?
Last possibility would be developing a search technology by itself. For now, Alibaba hasn't said anything on the subject but it doesn't seem that the eCommerce giant is interested in doing so. Indeed, Alibaba Group, has pitched Yahoo! China site as an entertainment-oriented portal.
Google to power Yahoo! Japan for search and ads
Yahoo! Japan is Japan’s biggest site
Yahoo! Japan is Japan’s leading search engine and the country’s biggest website.
This post contains market shares for search engines in the world and several countries including the US, China, Japan and South-Korea. Data provided by comScore is based on “expanded search” definition, which includes searches not only conducted on the core search engines.
Search engine market share - worldwide
Google Sites ranked as the top search site worldwide with 87.8 billion searches in December 2009, or almost 67 percent of the global search market. Yahoo! Sites ranked second globally with 9.4 billion searches, followed by Chinese search engine Baidu with 8.5 billion searches.
Microsoft Sites reached 4.1 billion searches, on the strength of its successful introduction of new search engine Bing. Russian search engine Yandex also achieved considerable gains, growing to 1.9 billion searches.
Top 10 Expanded Search Entity by searches conducted in December 2009
|Searches (MM)||Market share (%)|
|Microsoft Sites (Bing - MSN - Windows Live Search)||4,094||3.1|
Search engine market share - US
In January 2009, Google Sites led with 11.7 billion searches, representing almost 59 percent of the US search market. Yahoo! Sites ranked second with nearly 3 billion searches, followed by Microsoft Sites (1.2 billion) and AOL (781 million).
|Top Expanded Search Entity by searches conducted in January 2009||Searches (MM)||Market share (%)|
|Microsoft Sites (Bing - MSN - Windows Live Search)||1,188||5.9|
Search engine market share - Europe
In March 2008, Europeans conducted almost 25 billion searches. Google Sites holds the leading position with more than 19 billion searches conducted, representing 79 percent of the European search market. Google’s top position was followed by eBay, which accounted for 3.1 percent of European searches. Russian search portal Yandex ranked third with 2.2 percent search market share, slightly ahead of Yahoo! Sites at 2.0 percent and Microsoft Sites at 1.9 percent.
|Top Expanded Search Entity by searches conducted in March 2008||Searches (MM)||Market share (%)|
|Microsoft Sites (Bing - MSN - Windows Live Search)||469||1.9|
Search engine market share - China
The Chinese conducted almost 11 billion searches in July 2008. The leader of the market is the Chinese search engine Baidu, far ahead of Google (see our recent article showing that Google's loss is Baidu's gain in China). Other players such as Soso and Sogou try to gain market share but aren't very successful.
|Top Expanded Search Entity by searches conducted in July 2008||Searches (MM)||Market share (%)|
Search engine market share - Japan
Yahoo! Sites led the search ranking in Japan with 3.5 billion searches in January 2009, followed by Google Sites with 2.6 billion searches and Rakuten with 153 million searches.
|Top Expanded Search Entity by searches conducted in January 2009||Searches (MM)||Market share (%)|
|Microsoft Sites (Bing - MSN - Windows Live Search)||113||1.7|
Search engine market share - South Korea
In April 2009, 3.4 billion searches were conducted in South Korea. NHN Corporation, which includes Naver.com, led the search market with 2.1 billion searches conducted on its sites (62 percent search market share), followed by Daum with 680 million searches (20 percent) and Google Sites with 251 million searches (7 percent).
|Top Expanded Search Entity by searches conducted in April 2009||Searches (MM)||Market share (%)|
If you have more up-to-date data about search engine market share, notably in Asian countries, feel free to share it with us.
Microsoft-Yahoo! search alliance
Both companies announced last year an agreement stating that search ad inventory from Yahoo!, Microsoft, and their respective partners would be combined into a unified search marketplace, giving advertisers access to an audience of more than 560 million searchers worldwide.
The aim of this agreement is to create a competitive choice in search for advertisers and consumers. However, the Yahoo! and Microsoft search alliance doesn't include each company's display advertising, web properties and products like email, instant messaging, etc.
The Bing-Yahoo! merger is expected to complete in the end of this year for advertisers in the US and Canada, and Yahoo! promised to complete all global advertisers’ transitions by 2012.
Bing to power search
Microsoft will manage the technology platforms that deliver the algorithmic (powered by Bing - by the way see our post about how to optimize your site for Bing) and paid search results (powered by adCenter) while Yahoo! Search Marketing will be shut down. Yahoo! and Microsoft will continue to have differentiated consumer search experiences.
Moreover, both companies will each provide customer support to different advertiser segments: Yahoo!’s sales team will exclusively support large advertisers, SEO and SEM agencies, and resellers and their clients. Microsoft will support self-service advertisers.
Microsoft adCenter will be the platform for all search campaigns.
An alliance reshaping the search industry
In 2008, Yahoo! tried to quit the search market but negotiations to sign a deal with Google came to naught.
The alliance enables Bing’s and Yahoo!’s US search market share to go up to 32% (Bing 13% and Yahoo 19%) compared to Google’s 63% (data by ComScore’s US search market share report of June 2010).
Though, I'm not sure this alliance will be enough to counter Google. The US leading search engine remains wiser and better than its rivals as you can check in our SEO comparison on keywords between Google and Bing and our SEO test about national vs. international domain name extensions.
Today let's have a look at the web design of popular websites and let's focus on the main differences between their global and Chinese version.
Here is the comparison of some well-known sites and their Chinese version:
There are some significative differences in web design between amazon.com and amazon.cn.
As you can see below, the Chinese site displays a complete menu (from top search to comment space) at the top of the page in addition to another focused on the catalogue on the left like in the global version.
Some functionnalities differ and are not located at the same position in both sites. For example, the cart icon isn't integrated in the search box but displayed in the top menu on amazon.cn.
Plus, you can notice that the color used on Amazon China's website is a light blue shading compared to a plain dark blue on the worldwide website. You can also see that joyo.com's logo is still displayed on the webpage (Amazon acquired the Chinese bookstore joyo.com in 2004).
Let's now compare the design of Google's websites. As you know, google.cn now redirects to google.com.hk after Google decided in March 2010 to stop censoring its search results in China.
The main web design difference between Google.com and Google.com.hk consists of the numerous icons displayed under the search box in the Hongkongese version that enable users to access directly Google's services.
No difference in the web design of Apple's global and Chinese websites. Check it out yourself:
Yahoo! China's homepage might look similar to the global page: they both display a large block of news content in the middle of their homepage. However, the menu on the left of the page offers more functionnalities on yahoo.com than on yahoo.cn.
There are also differencies in the other blocks (for example 'trending now' vs. access to email on the right).
You can also compare the length of the two versions. Yahoo! China's homepage is very long compared to global's (I cut the homepage screenshot though to enable you to read the end of this post without scrolling down too much...).
The main difference between ebay.com and ebay.cn is the position of the search box within the site. On the global version, the search box is located just under the logo at the top of the home page whereas it is more down in the Chinese website. The organization of the blocks also largely differs.
When I look at MSN's global and Chinese websites, I can see many differences in the homepage pages: not the same structure, not the same colors. However, there is always the bing search box at the top. The global version looks much lighter than its Chinese equivalent to me.
The web design of Microsoft's global website homepage differs from the Chinese site only by the color: sky blue to light blue shading vs. orange to white shading for the Chinese version. Do you have any idea why they chose these colors ? I don't know but microsoft.fr has the same web design as Microsoft China's website...
As you can see above, some companies decided to have the same website design as their global website and only translate content for their Chinese version. Others display a different web design and modify their website structure.
The challenge for global websites is of course to strengthen their brand image and adapt China's market at the same time.
Japan's online mall giant Rakuten acquires French number one online eCommerce platform PriceMinister for about 200 million euros.
Rakuten buys France's biggest eCommerce platform
Rakuten which is Japan’s biggest online shopping mall operator will acquire the entire stake in PriceMinister which is France's biggest online shopping platform in terms of monthly visitors.
The 200 million euro acquisition is expected to be finalized in July.
Launched in 2000, PriceMinister had 10 million registered members and revenue of 40 million euros in 2009. The Paris-based company also provides services in the UK and Spain.
Rakuten wants to be a global company
With this acquisition, Rakuten enters the European eCommerce market after it recently bought US online retailer Buy.com for approximatively the same price ($250M).
In addition, the Chinese online shopping market is also part of Rakuten's plans: the Japanese company established a joint venture with the Chinese search engine Baidu to launch an eCommerce platform in China.
Moreover, Rakuten also signed a deal with Indonesian media conglomerate PT Global Mediacom to launch a local eCommerce network through a joint-venture in the second half of 2010.
With these several acquisitions and partnerships, the Japenese company clearly wants to expand internationally since Japan's eCommerce market is mature.
World eCommerce market on the move
At the same time, Rakuten's rivals, China's largest e-retailer Taobao and Yahoo! Japan, have joined forces to launch the world's largest cross-border e-Commerce platform.
World e-Commerce market is undergoing moves, especially in Asia where growth is driven by countries such as China (see our previous post about statistics of China's e-Commerce).
US actors like Ebay and Amazon have been rather discrete till now but they will have to react if they want to be still parts of the worldwide eCommerce race.
Taobao and Yahoo Japan launch the largest eCommerce platform
The joint service allows Internet users in China and Japan to buy and sell using systems translated into their native languages. Yahoo! JAPAN China Mall now offers 50 millions products from Chinese businesses to its Japenese consumers while on the other way around Chinese Internet users can buy 8 millions Japense items on TaoJapan.
Taobao is a subsidiary of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. Japan's mobile phone carrier SoftBank owns shares in both Taobao and Yahoo! Japan.
eBay's leadership in danger
After this announcement that threatens eBay's leadership in the e-Commerce market, the US company clearly had to react ; and it did by signing an international tri-lateral agreement with China Post and the United States Postal Service to provide easier shipping procedures for Chinese vendors who sell to American customers.
Besides, eBay launched an online tracking system with China Post Express & Logistics Corp, a unit of China Post. The partnership creates a new shipping platform for international tracking and delivery of lightweight goods ordered by consumers in the US from eBay sellers in China.
Other threat for eBay: Baidu, China's top search engine in terms of market share, which announced in January that it'd set up a joint venture with Japanese retail website Rakuten to launch a shopping mall targeting domestic web users in the second half of 2010. And by the way, Rakuten also recently acquired a domain name that can be well appropriated: Buy.com (for $250 million)...