Weekly Focus: Alibaba Buys China Online Delivery Platform

This week, the spotlight remains on Alibaba and its deal to buy out all remaining shares it does not already own in Chinese online delivery platform, Ele.me.

The transaction was estimated to place Ele.me's market value at USD$9.5bn (£6.86bn), according to Alibaba Group, which said it – along with its subsidiary Ant Financial Services – had held a 43% stake. The two companies had invested USD$1.25bn (£902.24m) in the company in 2016.

Alibaba noted that the deal would provide a boost to its New Retail strategy, melding online and offline consumer experience in the local services industry.

Ele.me specialised in food delivery and would support another Alibaba subsidiary and local online services platform, Koubei. The parent company said the integration of Ele.me's online home delivery capabilities and Koubei's restaurant and service offerings would provide a fuller experience for both online and offline consumers.

Following the acquisition, Ele.me would retain its brand and continue to work with existing merchants and partners. Its founder Zhang Xuhao would assume the role of chairman and special advisor to the CEO on new retail strategy.

Alibaba's vice president Wang Lei would become chief executive of Ele.me, said the Chinese e-commerce giant.

DiDi Drives into Food Delivery

Meanwhile, also in China, ride-sharing operator DiDi has launched its food delivery service in Beijing, clocking more than 334,000 orders on its first day.

Luo Wen, who heads the business, said the company planned to extend the service to other Chinese cities.

Pointing to DiDi's artificial intelligence (AI) system, which powered it ride-hailing service, Luo said the primary algorithm framework and "serial dispatching" technology had enabled the company to quickly adapt to the new food delivery.

According to DiDi, its machine-learning models analysed more than 70TB of data from more than 30 million rides a day. The company's infrastructure processed more than 13.89 million routing requests a minute.

Singapore Online Marketplace Touts One-Hour Car Sale

Over in Singapore, online used car marketplace Carro is pledging to complete the purchase of pre-owned vehicles within one hour.

Its Carro Express service previously had committed to completing transactions in two hours. It added that its Genie Financial Services unit would transfer cash to the seller within the hour.

The Singapore startup said Carro Express used machine-learning software and algorithms to assess market prices in real time.

Carro launched in the third quarter of 2016, initially offering a consumer-to-consumer marketplace on which used car buyers and sellers could connect. It then expanded its services to include business-to-business, processing wholesale transactions, automotive financial services, and their 'express' service.

It also offers a roadside assistance service, Carro Assist.

According to the company, it processed transactions of more than 10,000 cars on its online platform a year, handling more than SGD$250m (£180.45m) worth of vehicles in 2017.

It also launched its services in Thailand and Indonesia last year, setting up sales offices in both markets in July.

Book a Table on GOO Map

Google has teamed up with restaurant reservation platforms to let diners in Singapore book a table directly on Google Maps and Search.

It announced new partnerships with Chope, HungryGoWhere, and Quandoo to launch the 'Reserve with Google' feature, which it said allowed users to bypass booking sites. Instead, they would be able to search for a business and click on the 'Find a Table' button to check its availability and make their reservations on the Google platform.

Google Singapore's country director Stephanie Davis said: "Singaporeans rely on Google Search and Maps to discover nearby restaurants, access user reviews, and find out how to get there. Today, we're making the reservation experience even more seamless by allowing people to book a table directly. We believe that this new integration will positively impact our users and partners like Chope, HungryGoWhere, and Quandoo."