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'Chinese eBay' aims for global domination

Taobao.com wants more foreign products

The company known as "China's eBay" will aim for expansion abroad in the long term, but first it wants more foreign products sold on its platform in China, it said Saturday.

Taobao.com, a booming auction and retail site, does not have a concrete plan for the overseas market but will likely target regions with cultural similarities to China first, said Daniel Zhang, the company's chief financial officer, in an interview.

Alibaba Group, Taobao's parent company, wants 1 billion global users shopping on the site in 10 years, group CEO Jack Ma earlier told reporters. The target, more than one-seventh of the world's population, compares with Taobao's current average of up to 25 million shoppers each day, said Ma.

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"We have a long way to go," he said.

Alibaba Group, which also operates an online payment platform and Alibaba.com, a top site for businesses to trade wares, has increasingly shown global ambitions. The group recently launched a major US advertising campaign for Alibaba.com, and Ma early this year led a team of executives to discuss potential partnerships with US companies including Google, Amazon.com and eBay.

But Taobao has few users outside China so far and has not said how it aims to draw them. Taobao will look at an overseas debut in the long term, but first it will focus on further growth in China and encouraging sales of foreign products, said Zhang. One way it could do so is by hosting online stores for foreign retailers, such as it has done since April for Japanese clothes brand Uniqlo.

E-commerce is growing fast in China and people increasingly turn to Taobao, by far the leader in its market, for everything from clothes and make-up to mobile phones and household products. Taobao is also expanding beyond product sale hosting with new services such as online booking for plane tickets.

Taobao, which charges no transaction or item posting fees, expects to break even this year, a spokeswoman said. The company reported a ballooning transaction volume of 80.9 billion yuan (£1.1bn) in the first half of the year but draws most of its revenue from advertising.

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