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投资理财

阿里的收购野心及其背后的风险

Sanjay Sanghoee 2014年09月18日

就在阿里巴巴即将上市并矢志成为下一个大型科技企业集团的档口,投资者需认真考虑这一野心背后的风险。

聚焦阿里巴巴上市专题

· 阿里上千员工或分得人均数千万财富
· 阿里的收购野心及其背后的风险
· 阿里巴巴能从亚马逊和谷歌的IPO中借鉴什么
· 硅谷怎么看阿里巴巴?
· 阿里巴巴IPO:对投资者来说这是一笔“捡漏”的买卖

    中国电子商务巨头阿里巴巴(Alibaba)即将成为IPO俱乐部的最新成员,其市盈率预计将达到24倍,这将为该公司带来约240亿美元现金,使其跻身全球最大的科技公司行列。

    投资者为这一前景兴奋不已是可以理解的,但更为重要的一点是,该公司将来或许能借入更多资金用于收购,阿里巴巴有望携500亿美元在并购市场发起闪电战。据彭博社(Bloomberg)称,该公司IPO后的收购名单可能包括即时通讯公司Snapchat和Kik、电影和电视制作公司狮门娱乐(Lions Gate Entertainment)、互联网电视提供商Roku、云计算公司Rackspace和Akamai,甚至雅虎(Yahoo)。

    所有这些都显示了阿里巴巴的雄心壮志,即超越现有核心业务电子商务并成为与谷歌(Google)或Facebook相当的科技巨头,后两者在过去几年收购了多种领域的公司,包括机器人、恒温器和烟雾报警器、健身追踪、教育、硬件、生物科技、人工智能和虚拟现实等。

    阿里巴巴已经在中国国内进行了收购并在国外进行了投资,包括汽车服务应用程序提供商Lyft和网络零售商Shoprunner。其招股书中称:“我们已经并准备继续进行战略投资与收购,以扩大我们的用户群,增强云计算业务,增加互补产品与技术,并进一步强化我们的业务生态系统。”

    大型企业集团模式在上世纪70、80年代非常流行,但逐渐退潮,因为很多公司发现融合并管理不同业务线的难度较大。如今的行业格局已发生变化,这也是阿里巴巴有机会成功的原因,但有些事项需要注意。

    好的一方面是,科技领域天然具有融合和交互应用潜力。例如,狮门可以为阿里巴巴制作独家内容,然后阿里巴巴可以通过Akamai的内容发布网络发布,并通过Roku提供给消费者。而且,阿里巴巴还可以将电子商务的互动性与内容整合起来,观看者可以在看影片时购买产品,并通过Snapchat与其他观看者就影片进行对话沟通。这样一应俱全的整体模式可以为消费者提供巨大价值,进而给阿里巴巴带来巨大利润。

    挑战在于,在技术和企业两个层面让一切实现无缝融合是很复杂的,而且成本很高。大型企业集团是大规模的企业实体,从业务角度而言可能会变得笨重而难于管理。大型企业集团各业务部门之间的服务应如何定价?将这些服务提供给外部公司是否会有更高的利润?这将如何影响母公司的竞争力?这还只是一部分有待解决的问题。

    China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba is slated to become the newest entrant to the IPO club with an expected valuation of 24 times future earnings in the public markets, which would net it almost $24 billion in cash and make it one of the largest technology companies in the world.

    Investors are understandably excited about this prospect, but more to the point, the company will likely be able to borrow even more money for acquisitions, resulting in a$50 billion war chest that Alibaba intends to use to make rapid-fire acquisitions. According to Bloomberg, the company’s post-IPO shopping list could include messaging companies Snapchat and Kik, movie and television studio Lions Gate Entertainment LGF -0.89% , Internet TV provider Roku, cloud computing companies Rackspace RAX 0.87% and Akamai AKAM 1.32% , and even Yahoo YHOO 0.38%

    What all this points to is that Alibaba has the ambition beyond its core business of e-commerce to become a technology conglomerate along the lines of a Google GOOG 1.20% or Facebook FB 2.01% , which have acquired many companies over the past few years in areas as diverse as robotics, thermostats and smoke alarms, fitness tracking, education, hardware, biotech, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality.

    Alibaba is already making acquisitions in China and investments abroad, including in car-service app provider Lyft and online retailer Shoprunner, stating in itsprospectus that “We have made, and intend to continue to make, strategic investments and acquisitions to expand our user base, enhance our cloud computing business, add complementary products and technologies and further strengthen our ecosystem.”

    The conglomerate model was wildly popular during the 1970s and 1980s but eventually fell out of favor as companies found it difficult to integrate and manage different lines of business. In the dynamics are different, and that is why Alibaba has a shot at success –with some caveats.

    On the plus side, the tech arena has the potential for integration and crossover applications naturally built in. For example, Lions Gate could make exclusive content for Alibaba, which the company could then deliver over the content-delivery network of Akamai and provide to consumers over Roku. Moreover, Alibaba could integrate e-commerce interactivity with content to enable viewers to buy products while watching a show, and to create a dialogue with other viewers about the show via Snapchat. This type of self-contained universe can provide tremendous value to consumers, and by extension, tremendous profits to Alibaba.

    The challenge here is in the complexity and cost of integrating all this in a seamless way, both on the technological as well as corporate side. Conglomerates are big entities and can become unwieldy and difficult to manage from a business perspective. How should the pricing of services between divisions of a conglomerate be determined? Would it be more profitable to provide those services to outside parties at arms length instead? And how would that impact the competitiveness of the parent company? These are just some of the questions that need to be addressed.

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