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Jack Ma steps down as Alibaba (BABA) chairman: History of the company



2019 is a big year for Alibaba. The Chinese e-commerce giant is celebrating its twentieth anniversary and its high-profile founder Jack Ma, is stepping down as chairman on Tuesday.

Since its founding in 1999, Alibaba has gone from being a traditional e-commerce company to a conglomerate that has businesses from logistics to food delivery and cloud computing. It is now a company valued over $460 billion.

Here are some of key moments in Alibaba’s history.

April 1999: The journey begins

Alibaba founder Jack Ma holds a meeting in his apartment in 1999, the year the Chinese e-commerce giant was established.


Alibaba was established by a group of 18 founders led by Jack Ma. The group worked out of Ma’s apartment in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, where Alibaba is now headquartered.

Its first website was, an English-language wholesale marketplace. That same year, Alibaba launched a domestic wholesale market place.

January 2000: SoftBank invests

Alibaba founder Jack Ma and SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son shake hands after the Japanese conglomerate led a $20 million funding round into the company in January 2000.


Alibaba got a $20 million investment from a group of investors led by SoftBank.

“We didn’t talk about revenues, we didn’t even talk about a business model,” said Ma about SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal at the time. “We just talked about a shared vision. Both of us make quick decisions.”

That investment helped Alibaba to grow.

May 2003: Taobao is born

Taobao is an online shopping platform in China run by Alibaba, where third-party sellers can push their products.

In Alibaba’s 2015 fiscal year, Taobao’s gross merchandise volume reached 1.59 trillion yuan ($223.9 billion). That has grown to 3.11 trillion yuan in the 2019 fiscal year.

Revenue from Taobao is a crucial part of Alibaba’s core commerce business.

December 2004: Alipay launch

Alipay is one of China’s two big payments platforms, along with rival WeChat Pay which is owned by Tencent. It’s a system based on QR codes, a kind of bar code, that’s found at merchants’ payment counters. Buyers in stores can scan the code to make payments. But Alipay can also be used in online stores.

However, Alipay has proved to be a controversial asset throughout Alibaba’s history, causing the company and its founder Ma, to clash with key shareholders Yahoo and SoftBank.

August 2005: Yahoo becomes biggest shareholder founder Jack Ma (L) and Yahoo’s chief operating officer at the time Daniel Rosensweig during a joint press conference to announce their deal in Beijing, 11 August 2005. Yahoo Inc signed a deal to buy 40 percent of for $1 billion cash while handing over the running of its China operations to the Chinese online retailer.

AFP | Getty Images

Yahoo poured $1 billion into Alibaba for a 40% stake in the company, making it the e-commerce firm’s largest shareholder.

As part of the deal, Alibaba took control of Yahoo’s China business.

“Together, we will create one of the largest Internet companies in China, and our combined assets will make us the only company that has a leading position in all the key sectors that are driving explosive Internet growth in China such as search, commerce and communications,” Terry Semel, Yahoo’s CEO at the time said in a press release.

November 2007: Hong Kong IPO

Before Alibaba’s debut in the U.S. in 2014, it carried out an initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong in 2007.

The public listing raised $13.1 billion Hong Kong dollars in gross proceeds. On its opening day, Alibaba shares surged from the offer price of $13.50 Hong Kong dollars to as high as $39.50 Hong Kong dollars.

April 2008: The birth of Tmall

Alibaba launched a product called Taobao Mall which was spun off years later and became Tmall. Along with Taobao, Tmall is now one of Alibaba’s most important e-commerce properties in terms of revenue.

Tmall has positioned itself as a place where foreign brands can set up an online store and sell to Chinese consumers.

Luxury fashion brands, electronics makers and even Starbucks are on Tmall.

September 2009: Cloud business launched

Alibaba launched its cloud business in 2009 and it is now one of the biggest in China.

Cloud computing is the second-largest revenue source for the company, and its fastest-growing businesses.

Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang told CNBC last year that cloud will be the firm’s “main business” in the future.

“Cloud computing is our long-term strategy. We strongly believe that every business in the future will be powered by cloud,” he said.

November 2009: Singles Day extravaganza

Singles Day — also known as the Double 11 festival — is China’s largest shopping event of the year. It was pioneered by current Alibaba CEO Zhang.

Retailers offer huge discounts on that day, and it’s turned into a multibillion dollar festival.

Alibaba saw gross merchandising value — the value of goods sold via its platforms — hit $7.8 million in the 2009 edition of Singles Day. That figure stood at $30.8 billion for the 2018 event, according to the exchange rate at the time.

“I never expected that we could actually transform this day into a commercial day … for the whole society,” Zhang told CNBC in an interview last year.

May 2011: Alipay controversy

Alibaba sold control of Alipay to a group controlled by Jack Ma. At the time, the company said it was because of new rules issued by the country’s central bank — the People’s Bank of China. The regulations for third-party online payment required them to get specific licenses.

However Yahoo, Alibaba’s biggest shareholder at the time, said the sale of Alipay happened without its knowledge, a statement that the Chinese e-commerce giant denied.

The episode raised concerns about Alibaba’s governance structure.

Yahoo, SoftBank and Alibaba eventually came to a deal that same year: Alibaba would be paid at least $2 billion but no more than $6 billion if Alipay went public; Alipay was also required to pay licensing fees and continue serving Taobao.

June 2012: Hong Kong delisting

Just five years after its debut on the Hong Kong stock exchange, Alibaba took the company private through a de-listing.

The company paid $2.45 billion to buy the 27% of held by the public. This equated to $13.50 Hong Kong dollars a share, the same offering price for the IPO back in 2007.

“Taking private will allow our company to make long-term decisions that are in the best interest of our customers and that are also free from the pressures that come from having a publicly listed company,” Ma said in comments at the time.

September 2012: Alibaba’s Yahoo buyback

Alibaba bought back half of Yahoo’s 40% stake for $7.6 billion. Yahoo received approximately $6.3 billion in cash and $800 million in preference shares in Alibaba.

This was a big return for Yahoo after its initial $1 billion investment in 2005.

September 2014: New York IPO

Chinese online retail giant Alibaba CEO Jack Ma (C) waves as he arrives at the New York Stock Exchange in New York on September 19, 2014.

Jewel Samad | AFP | Getty Images

Alibaba went public on the New York Stock exchange in what was the biggest IPO in history.

The e-commerce giant raised around $25 billion in its New York IPO. It’s now one of Asia’s largest technology firms by valuation.

Alibaba’s stock is up over 150% from its $68 per share listing price.

October 2014: Ant Financial is created

After the controversial spin-off of Alipay, Ant Financial was created to encompass not just the payment system but other financial services.

The creation of this affiliate company signaled Alibaba’s intentions to push into financial technology or fintech.

Ant Financial, now China’s largest fintech firm, is reportedly valued at around $150 billion.

August 2015: $4.6 billion Suning deal

Alibaba invested 28.3 billion yuan, which was around $4.56 billion, into Chinese bricks-and-mortar electronics retailer Suning. This followed an investment the year before into department store chain, Intime.

It signaled Alibaba’s intent to push on with its so-called “new retail” strategy where it looks to merge its online business with offline stores. The aim is to bring together payments, e-commerce, food delivery and other parts of its business into one big ecosystem.

It’s a strategy that the company continues to push on with today.

April 2016: International push

Since it’s founding 20 years ago, Alibaba’s focus has very much been on its domestic market: helping foreign and local brands sell to Chinese consumers.

But in April 2016, the company took a controlling stake in Singapore-based Lazada, an e-commerce company that serves several markets in Southeast Asia.

That marked Alibaba’s first major international push in the e-commerce space.

February 2018: Alibaba buys Ant stake

Alibaba bought a 33% stake in Ant Financial. It was able to do so because of a clause in a contract between the two companies from 2014 when Ant was created.

There have been reports that Ant Financial is gearing up for an IPO, though the company has not made any official announcements.

September 2019: Jack Ma steps down as chairman

In September 2018, Alibaba said Jack Ma will step down as chairman of the board one year later — on September 10, 2019.

Current CEO Zhang takes Ma’s place as chairman.

Ma intends to stay on the Alibaba board of directors until the 2020 annual shareholders meeting.

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Cyprus to pay for the vacation of tourists who catch the coronavirus



Kyrenia Harbor, Cyprus.

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The Cypriot government has said it will cover the vacation costs of any tourists who contract the coronavirus while holidaying in the country. 

Officials pledged to pay for travelers’ accommodation, food, drink and medication if they test positive for Covid-19 after entering the country. It said travelers will only need to foot the bill for their airport transfer and return flight. 

A “Covid-19 hospital” with 100 beds will be provided exclusively for foreign visitors who contract the virus and additional beds can be made available if needed, the government said. 

For travelers who show critical symptoms, it plans to offer an additional 112 intensive care units for treatment, with 200 respirators. 

And 500 rooms in dedicated “quarantine hotels” will be offered to close contacts of the person infected with the coronavirus, with more to be made available if necessary. 

“This will not only ensure that they are properly taken care of, but it will also provide peace of mind to other travelers, that their accommodation is free of Covid-19,” the Cypriot government said in a letter to its tourism partners dated Tuesday. 

It also said that the room in a hotel where the tourist who contracted the virus has stayed in will undergo a deep clean and disinfection before being used again. 

Cyprus has confirmed 939 cases of Covid-19 and 17 deaths from the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

Cyrpus started to ease its lockdown on May 4, with the government saying it expects the “full containment of the virus” by May 31. Its hospitality businesses are due to open on June 1 and international air travel will resume on June 9. 

Initially, all visitors will be required to take a coronavirus test in their own country within 72 hours before traveling to Cyprus. 

The government then plans to lift travel restrictions for a number of countries by June 20, with a list provided on its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Ministry of Tourism websites, updated weekly from this point forward. 

Countries it has so far assessed as “low risk” include Germany, Greece, Norway, Finland and Denmark among others. 

Though it said people from places on its second list of higher risk countries, which currently includes Switzerland and Poland, would still need to take the coronavirus test in advance of traveling to Cyprus from June 20. 

Nearly 4 million tourists visited Cyprus last year, bringing in revenues of 2.7 billion euros, according to government data. Tourism reportedly accounts for 13% of the country’s economy. 

In the letter, the government said that its ratio of intensive care unit beds per 100,000 people was higher than the EU average. It claimed to have had one of the lowest ratios of coronavirus cases per capita in Europe and to have tested more than 10% of the country’s inhabitants. 

Social distancing and hygiene rules for tourists and Cypriot businesses were also outlined in the government letter, including a limit of 10 people in a group in restaurants, bars, cafes, pubs and nightclubs.

Check out: Will your travel rewards expire if you ‘wait it out’ during the coronavirus pandemic?

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English Premier League to restart on June 17, BBC reports



Fans wear disposable face masks prior to the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Turf Moor on March 07, 2020 in Burnley, United Kingdom.

Michael Regan | Getty Images

The Premier League season will restart on June 17, the BBC reported on Thursday.

A spokesman for the Premier League, which stopped play in March, declined to comment as the meeting of 20 club officials was ongoing.

The season will get under way on the Wednesday date with Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal, which are both games in hand.

A full fixture list would then be played on the weekend of June 19-21, the report said. All games will be behind closed-doors.

The Premier League was suspended on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic but teams returned to small group training last week.

On Wednesday clubs agreed to move to Phase Two of the comeback with players working in larger groups and closer to each other.

The next step would be full contact training and preparation for the return to action.

Liverpool, searching for their first league title in 30 years, lead the standings by 25 points.

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Weekly jobless claims reach 2.1 million, but total unemployed shrinks



First-time claims for unemployment benefits totaled 2.1 million last week, the lowest total since the coronavirus crisis began though indicative that a historically high number of Americans remain separated from their jobs.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for 2.05 million. The total represented a decrease of 323,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised 2.438 million.

Continuing claims, or those who have been collecting for at least two weeks, numbered 21.05 million, a clearer picture of how many workers are still sidelined. That number dropped sharply, falling 3.86 million from the previous week.

That decline in continuing claims “suggests that the reopening of states is pushing businesses to rehire some of the people let go when the virus hit,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. However, Shepherdson noted that some of the data, particularly from California, remains noisy and may not be an accurate representation of some states’ situations.

The insured unemployment rate, which is a basic calculation of those collecting benefits vs. the total labor force, came down sharply to 14.5% from 17.1% the previous week.

“Layoffs continue at a massive scale, according to the latest unemployment insurance report, but it may be that the job market is nearing a turning point,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC.

The four-week moving average, which helps smooth out weekly volatility, rose to 22.72 million, an increase of 760,250 from the previous week. 

Since the pandemic was declared in mid-March, 40.8 million have filed claims as social distancing measures aimed at containing the coronavirus outbreak resulted in much of the $21.5 trillion U.S. economy being in lockdown for 2½ months.

A separate report Thursday showed that first-quarter GDP contracted by 5%, while the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow tracker is indicating a 41.9% plunge in Q2 that will be the worst in U.S. history. That would put the U.S. firmly in recession territory, though most economists are expecting a rebound in the second half of the year after restrictions are lifted.

A total 1.19 million filed claims through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program last week.

The high jobless numbers persist even as all states have reopened their economies to various extents. Las Vegas casinos will be resuming activities late next week, Disney resorts also have targeted July reopening dates and Los Angeles is allowing retail stores to resume business. Restrictions are likely to be loosened soon in New York as well.

Still, businesses are wrestling with multiple dynamics stemming from the biggest surge in in layoffs since the Great Depression. The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that business owners are seeing workers reluctant to return to their jobs because of safety concerns, child-care issues and “generous” unemployment benefits from the government.

At the state level, Pennsylvania saw the biggest rise in claims last week with 6,892, according to numbers not adjusted seasonally. Many large states, though, saw declines from a week earlier Washington fell by 86,839, while California declined by 32,088 and New York decreased by 31,769.

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