Alibaba to invest additional $2 billion in Lazada, replaces CEO

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Alibaba said it will invest an extra US$2 billion (S$2.6 billion) in South-east Asian e-commerce firm Lazada Group. Lucy Peng, the CEO of Ant Financial, will apparently occupy the post of the chief executive at Lazada Group, while Bittner is expected to work as a senior advisor for the Singapore eCommerce firm. The statement didn't specify how much of the company Alibaba will own after the latest investment.

Lucy Peng, who now serves as Lazada's chairwoman, will assume the additional role of chief executive officer.

The Chinese giant acquired control of Lazada in 2016 with an investment of US$1 billion before increasing its stake to 83% following an injection of another US$1 billion previous year.

"The investment underscores Alibaba's confidence in the future success of Lazada's business and the growth prospect of the Southeast Asian market, a region that is a key part of Alibaba's global growth strategy", Alibaba said in a statement.

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"It's a sign of how seriously Alibaba perceive the growth opportunity, and competitive threats, in Southeast Asia", said James Lloyd, Asia-Pacific fintech leader at EY.

Internet economy in the region is projected to grow to $200 billion by 2025, primarily driven by growth in e-commerce. Bittner will remain involved as "senior advisor to Alibaba Group" and apparently involved in future strategy, including further worldwide expansion opportunities.

Running in 2012, Lazada operates in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The e-commerce market in Southeast Asia holds a lot of potential but is also highly fragmented. "With a young population, high mobile penetration and just 3 per cent of the region's retail sales now conducted online, we feel very confident to double down on South-east Asia". On Monday, Alibaba announced it would invest $2 billion in an online retailer. It also serves more than 560 million consumers throughout the region. Global e-commerce giant Amazon entered the region a year ago, but is so far active only in Singapore.