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INTERNET SPACE
Chinese consumers spend billions in 'Singles Day' shopping binge
By Dan Martin
Shanghai (AFP) Nov 11, 2017


Boeing 747s and bottled flatulence: 5 Chinese e-bargains
Shanghai (AFP) Nov 11, 2017 - Hundreds of millions of Chinese used their smartphones to snap up online bargains Saturday on "Double 11", the country's annual e-commerce shopping spree.

Also known as "Singles Day", China's version of "Black Friday" saw billions of dollars in orders for the usual items such as food, furniture and electronics.

But if a new pair of socks seems a bit boring, a range of more unusual items can be had in China's thriving online marketplaces.

Unwanted Boeing 747s ($18.5 mn)

Finding a place to park it might be a problem, but anyone with at least 123 million yuan ($18.5 million) to spare might fancy snapping up their very own Boeing 747 cargo plane, three of which will be up for online auction on from November 20 on Taobao.com, the main platform of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. The planes used to belong to now-defunct Jade Cargo International, whose assets are being sold off by a court in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen after the planes previously failed to find a buyer.

Flatulence in a bottle ($3)

This glass bottle with a cork stopper costs 20-59 yuan and is supposedly full of human gas that will make you feel like "a goddess". Unclear what the purpose is, or even if it is genuine. But one seller calls it "beautifying" for the skin and another says it will help keep you awake, a bit like a morning coffee. So far two websites selling the item have made one sale between them.

Bark for 'strong' men ($27)

Going for a promotional price of 178 yuan -- originally 490 yuan -- are packets of cabinda bark extract, which is thought by some to have an aphrodisiac effect for men. Dip it in hot water, a bit like a tea bag, soak for 15 minutes and drink. Then wait for the result. Each portion is good for use on three occasions. "Herbal energy -- rekindle happiness, make men strong and enjoy a sense of achievement," boast the sellers.

Trump, Kim Jong-Un masks ($3)

Ever wanted to be President Donald Trump for the day? Or North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un? Now you can be, sort of, with latex masks that cover the whole head and face and look vaguely like the two men in question, though Trump might take issue with the very yellow hair and eyebrows. Costing at least 20 yuan, wannabe world leaders can also buy versions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and former US president Barack Obama. Dead Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is another option if the mood takes you. Chinese President Xi Jinping is not available.

Eyebrow stamp ($4.50)

The drive for self-improvement can lead down all sorts of odd avenues, and this plastic device is one of them. Costing as little as 30 yuan, you dip the eyebrow-shaped contraption into a powder that boasts different shades of brown/grey, then stamp it on your face in the appropriate spot. If the standard arched eyebrow is a little boring, you can make it straighter. No need to fear embarrassment in sudden rainstorms: the powder is water proof.

China's smartphone-wielding masses unleashed billions of dollars in e-commerce spending Saturday as they rushed to snap up bargains on "Singles Day" -- billed as the world's biggest one-day online shopping festival.

Also known as "Double 11" for the November 11 date, the event launched in 2009 by e-commerce giant Alibaba kicked off at midnight and ended up shattering the previous year's sales mark, as it does every year.

Eighteen hours later, at 6 pm (1000 GMT) on Saturday, Alibaba said the gross value of sales processed by its online payment system Alipay was nearing $21 billion -- roughly equivalent to the annual economic output of Honduras or Afghanistan.

That blew well past the $17.8 billion logged over the full 24 hours last year, which itself marked a 32 percent year-on-year increase.

Alibaba rivals such as JD.com also reported brisk business.

The yearly display of rising Chinese consumer spending power has become crucial for manufacturers and retailers across the country, accounting for a significant share of annual orders for many businesses.

Five minutes after midnight, Alipay was processing 256,000 payment transactions per second, doubling last year's high-water mark, Alibaba said.

More than 90 percent of Alipay orders were placed via mobile, the majority on Alibaba's main e-commerce platform Taobao.com.

More than half of China's 1.3 billion people use smartphones, which have become central to daily life, used for messaging, shopping, news and entertainment, ordering taxis and meals, and serving as digital wallets for a range of point-of-sale purchases.

The day's transaction volumes are pumped up by many Chinese delaying purchases of mundane items like rice and toilet paper to take advantage of cut-rate prices.

Alibaba launched "Singles Day" as the Chinese online answer to the late-November US "Black Friday" shopping rush, capitalising on the Chinese love of a good bargain and the growing national addiction to one-click smartphone payments.

E-commerce's huge growth in China has put New York-listed Alibaba neck-and-neck with Amazon as the world's most valuable e-commerce company, while also making Nasdaq-listed JD.com a Fortune 500 company.

Alibaba and JD stock have both doubled this year as revenues surged.

- Going global -

Alibaba is investing heavily in creating an entire user ecosystem encompassing cloud computing, artificial intelligence, automated stores using face-recognition, and is pushing into overseas markets under much-travelled boss Jack Ma, one of China's richest men.

But environmentalists accuse Alibaba and other e-tailers of fuelling a culture of excessive consumption and mountains of waste.

Greenpeace said "Singles Day" deliveries last year created 130,000 tonnes of packaging waste -- less than 10 percent of which is recycled.

It said e-commerce is actually more carbon-intensive than brick-and-mortar shopping, calling "Singles Day" a "disaster for the environment".

But the growth of Chinese e-commerce has proved a boon to hundreds of once-backward interior towns and villages, now dubbed "Taobao villages" after re-orienting their local economies toward manufacturing for online buyers.

Analysts say Alibaba will take "Singles Day" global as Chinese e-commerce growth rates are expected to slow in years ahead.

It already has a substantial stake in Lazada, an online retailer in Southeast Asia -- a hot e-commerce battleground -- and recently launched an electronic trading hub in Malaysia, its first outside China.

Alibaba said hundreds of millions of Southeast Asian consumers will be able to access Taobao this "Singles Day".

"This is just the start. We will see tens of billions of dollars injected abroad (by Alibaba)," said Li Chengdong, a Beijing-based independent e-commerce analyst.

"It could end up dominating e-commerce in developing countries."

Alibaba takes record $25 bn on 'Singles Day'
Beijing (AFP) Nov 12, 2017 - Chinese online shoppers spent a record $25 billion on this year's "Singles Day" promotion run by e-commerce giant Alibaba, up nearly 40 percent from last year, figures showed on Sunday.

At the peak, 256,000 payments were being processed per second on Saturday, the firm said, more than 90 percent of them placed via mobile.

The company's gross merchandise volume for its annual sales extravaganza known as "Double 11" representing November 11, came in at 168.3 billion ($25.3 billion), Alibaba said in a statement on its website.

The figure represents sales processed through Alibaba's online payment system Alipay.

The total sales were up 39 percent from last year's 120.7 billion yuan ($17.8 billion) -- a milestone this year eclipsed in under 14 hours, according to Alibaba.

Rivals such as JD.com also reported brisk business.

Analysts expect Chinese e-commerce retailers to take "Singles Day" -- which originally celebrated the idea of being unattached -- abroad as growth rates slow in the years ahead.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that more than 140,000 overseas brands participated in this year's promotion.

"Alibaba looked to elevate this year's 11.11 from a shopping day to a virtual holiday," the company said in its statement, "complete with a motto -- 'Wishing you a Happy 11.11' -- that closely resembles the sort of greetings Chinese all over the world exchange at the Lunar New Year."

INTERNET SPACE
China's Tencent takes 12% stake in Snapchat parent
New York (AFP) Nov 8, 2017
Snapchat parent Snap Inc. disclosed Wednesday that Chinese tech giant Tencent had taken a 12 percent stake, a sign of confidence in the social network that has delivered disappointing results since its share offering this year. A securities filing showed Tencent Holdings had purchased some 146 million shares of Snap non-voting stock in open market purchases in November. Those shares woul ... read more

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