Alibaba Takes Control of Delivery Business at Center of U.S. Probe

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. will buy control of unprofitable delivery business Cainiao for 5.3 billion yuan ($800 million) and spend billions of dollars more to expand a shipping network that spans the world’s largest e-commerce market.

China’s largest web marketplace agreed to increase its stake in Cainiao Smart Logistics Network Ltd. to 51 percent. Under the deal, Alibaba plans to consolidate Cainiao’s financials into its own books, eroding Alibaba’s bottom line, and will get an additional seat on Cainiao’s board, taking its representation to four out of seven seats, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

The company co-founded by Jack Ma is taking control of a little-known but rapidly growing business run with partners that sits at the heart of Alibaba’s expansion — both in China and abroad. It oversees a coterie of more than a dozen shipping partners, orchestrating deliveries carried out by about 2 million people across more than 600 cities. Cainiao’s operation had enabled Alibaba to maintain what it called an asset-light model that eschewed expensive warehouse construction.