Alibaba Group, the giant Chinese online retailer, has emerged as the biggest outside shareholder in Seattle-based zulily after an intense shopping spree that began Wednesday as the stock slumped.
Alibaba Group has emerged as a significant owner of Seattle-based zulily after an intense shopping spree that began Wednesday, a move that underscores the Chinese online retailer’s growing interest in the U.S.
Through an investment subsidiary, Alibaba bought 4.8 million zulily Class A shares, for about $56 million, according to securities documents filed late Friday.
That brings its total ownership in zulily, a moms-oriented online retailer, to some 11.5 million shares — close to one sixth of the company’s Class A stock, worth about $156 million. Its earlier stake of less than 5 percent had not been previously disclosed.
Those Class A shares, however, have just a tenth of the voting power of the restricted Class B stock, most of which is controlled by the company’s founders.
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Nevertheless, Alibaba’s investment amounts to about 9.3 percent of zulily’s total shares, which as of market close on Friday had a market capitalization of $1.64 billion.
As of March, no other investor had as many Class A shares in zulily. At that time, Fidelity Investments was the largest outside holder with some 8.6 million shares of Class A stock.
Alibaba’s move is a big show of confidence at a tough time for zulily, which in Tuesday’s quarterly earnings report lowered its sales target for this year due to a higher than expected churn in its customer base. Shares dove nearly 20 percent in after-market trading following that earnings report, and previously bullish analysts cried foul.
“Alibaba continues to focus on making investments in forward-thinking, innovative entrepreneurs that are developing leading products and technologies,” the company said in a statement. “We support innovation and entrepreneurship and believe we can share and learn from these types of partners. The Zulily team has a compelling vision for the future that is consistent with our investment philosophy.”
Alibaba’s purchases of stock, which occurred over several days starting Wednesday, according to securities filings, likely helped the stock rebound. On Friday, shares closed up 12.67 percent at $13.30.
“We have great respect for the team at Alibaba and all they have built,” said zulily CEO Darrell Cavens in a statement. “We are honored to welcome them as shareholders of our company.”
Alibaba’s investment deepens its connection to Seattle. Already it has struck a deal with Costco Wholesale to sale its merchandise in China through one of its online sites, and it has partnered with online diamond retailer Blue Nile.
It recently also established a software engineering office in Seattle.