Chinese tech giant Alibaba will take control of leading hypermarket and supermarket chain Sun Art Retailing.
The tech titan is looking to boost its offline shopping services and gain further ground in China’s booming retail market.
Alibaba is already China’s biggest e-commerce player and owns Taobao, the world’s largest online marketplace.
Sun Art is currently controlled by a unit of Mulliez family investments – one of the richest families in France.
Alibaba will pay HK$28bn (US$3.6bn, £2.bn) to raise its stake in the Hong Kong-listed Sun Art from 21% to 72% according to a company statement.
Operator of hypermarket brands Auchan and RT-Mart, Sun Art has 481 hypermarkets and three mid-size supermarkets in China.
Alibaba formed a strategic alliance with the supermarket chain in 2017 to digitise its shops and invested HK$22.4bn in the company at the time.
“As the Covid-19 pandemic is accelerating the digitalisation of consumer lifestyles and enterprise operations, this commitment to Sun Art serves to strengthen our new retail vision and serve more consumers with a fully integrated experience,” said Daniel Zhang, chairman and chief executive of Alibaba.
All of Sun Art’s physical stores have been integrated into Alibaba’s platforms, providing one-hour and half-day on-demand delivery.
This is through a partnership with other Alibaba businesses including its online food delivery service platform Ele.me and Cainiao, a logistics subsidiary.
Alibaba is also becoming a major player in the online payments world, and its financial technology offshoot Ant Group is expected to list its shares in China and Hong Kong later this month.
It could be the biggest ever initial public offering (IPO) as it is reported to have a target of $35bn for raising capital.