Alibaba’s booth at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference on August 30, 2019 in Shanghai. (Image credit: TechNode/Shi Jiayi)

Last week, China launched an anti-trust probe into Alibaba and called in its financial services affiliate Ant Group for a meeting. Beverage chain Luckin Coffee’s growth slowed but continued in 2020. China’s K-12 edtech giants Zuoyebang and TAL Group received funding boosts, while rival Xuebajun is reportedly insolvent.

Retailheadlines

China’s e-commerce and retail market offers a fire hose of products, choices, business models, rapidly changing content, and more. Here’s what you need to know about China’s online retail market for the week of Dec. 24 –30.

Alibaba founder’s empire facing scrutiny

Chinese market regulators announced on Thursday an investigation of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba for anti-competitive practices. (TechNode)On the same day, regulators called in executives at Alibaba’s fintech affiliate Ant Group for a meeting about regulation compliance. (TechNode)China’s market watchdog summoned on Dec. 22 six of China’s largest consumer internet businesses, including Alibaba, Tencent, JD.com, and Meituan, for a meeting about tightening control over community group buying. It warned the firms about predatory pricing and selling counterfeits. (The Wall Street Journal)

Luckin’s rising revenue

A recent report submitted by Luckin Coffee’s liquidator to a Cayman Islands court offered a glimpse into the troubled coffee chain’s finances. Reeling from its sales fraud, ensuing Nasdaq delisting, and impact from the pandemic, Luckin reduced its store count 13.5% to 3,898 as of the end of the third quarter from 4,507 in end-2019.

Luckin Coffee earned RMB 1.15 billion ($176.3 million) in Q3, a 35.8% increase over the same period a year earlier. In Q2, revenue grew 49.9% year on year to RMB 980 million, while Q1 revenue—prior to its fraud admission—totaled RMB 565 million, 18.1% higher than the same period a year ago. Customer growth and purchase frequency powered growth, according to the company.

Luckin Coffee agreed earlier this month to pay a $180 million penalty to settle accounting fraud charges brought by the US market regulator. (Pandaily)

Edtech firms cash in

Chinese edtech unicorn Zuoyebang announced Monday the completion of a more than $1.6 billion round from investors including Alibaba Group and SoftBank’s Vision Fund, as well as existing investors Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital China. The funding comes six months after a $750 million Series E received in June this year, raising the company’s total funds received to over $3.4 billion. (Reuters)Yuanfudao, another Chinese edtech firm, secured $300 million from Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital. This is the company’s third funding round received this year, following a $1 billion G1 round in March and $1.2 billion G2 round in October. (KrAsia)TAL Education, a K-12 after-school tutoring services provider in China, announced on Tuesday a $3.3 billion private placement plan led by tech venture capital firm Silver Lake. The private placement will account for a combined 6.5% of the company’s outstanding shares. (TAL)Zhangmen, a Warburg Pincus-backed Chinese online tutoring platform, is reportedly seeking to raise $300 million in a US stock market listing. (Bloomberg Quint)Xuebajun, an K-12 education app that received $200 million in funding since its establishment in 2013, is reportedly insolvent. Nearly 10,000 employees and teachers are owed payment and 100,000 users, who pre-paid for their services, have been affected, a self-identified employee of the company said in a WeChat post. The company has not officially filed for bankruptcy. (Sina, in Chinese)

Supermarkets and tech

The average daily orders from Sam’s Club‘s nearly 100 warehouses in China have increased more than 10-fold in the three years since the American membership-only retailer entered into a partnership with Chinese grocery delivery platform JD Daojia. JD Daojia provides one-hour delivery to the wholesaler’s online orders. (Dada, in Chinese)Walmart, the supermarket chain behind Sam’s Club, hosted on Dec. 18 a one-hour livestream on TikTok, where users can purchase products featured by the livestreamers without leaving the app. (TechCrunch)

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at [email protected]
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