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Alibaba Group Announces Plans to Split E-Commerce Site

The Alibaba Group, one of China’s biggest Internet providers, has announced plans to split its popular e-commerce site, Taobao.com, into three separate units, dashing hopes that the unit might receive an imminent public listing.

The New York Times reports the split will turn Taobao into China’s version of eBay, a consumer marketplace that will afford shoppers the opportunity to browse major retailers and international brands. An Internet search engine focused on e-commerce will also be included.

With the value of Alibaba at a premium, investors were hoping for the company to publicly list the Taobao unit, despite the fact that company head Jack Ma has stated for years a public listing was not imminent.

But in a letter to employees today, the same day the Taobao split has been announced, Ma said for the first time the company is considering listing the Alibaba Group “as a way to reward our employees and shareholders who support and continue to believe in us,” although no time frame was provided and insiders say a listing is not likely to occur within the coming year.

The company is currently working with Yahoo and Softbank to resolve a dispute over Alibaba unit Alipay, which was transferred to a Chinese company mostly owned by Ma. Yahoo claims the transfer, which Alibaba maintains had been made to comply with Chinese law about licenses for online payment companies, was performed without the approval of the board.

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