Tmall.com, the business-to-consumer platform owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, rolled out a financing service on Wednesday to help car purchasers in China get unsecured loans of up to 60,000 yuan ($9,606).

The new service underscored the Hangzhou-based e-commerce conglomerate’s strong ambition to conquer a new sector – the online car market.

Tmall has gained fame mainly through the sales of clothes and shoes online.

“China is the world’s largest car market with a total sales of more than 20 million units last year. The number of cars sold through online platforms is quite small compared with the giant size of the market,” said Wang Licheng, a senior executive of Tmall, which allows brands to sell directly to customers.

Vehicle shoppers can apply for interest-free loans that allow them to pay off their balances over as long as 18 months, depending on their shopping records and creditworthiness on Tmall and Taobao, Alibaba’s online marketplace.

Participating automakers include Shanghai General Motors, which operates Tmall.com flagship stores for the Chevrolet and Buickbrands,andSAICMotorCorpLtd,formerlyShanghaiAutomotiveIndustryCorp.

The program is the latest move by Alibaba to leverage its strengths in data and finance to tap into new markets. On Tuesday, Alibaba introduced a program that provides loans to small and medium-sized enterprises in China.

The car loan program is run by the Small and Micro Financial Services Group, a company spun out of Alibaba Group that includes Alipay. It operates the popular Yu’ebao money market fund. Rather than funding the loans itself, Small and Micro Financial Services acts as an intermediary to verify the creditworthiness of loan applicants.

During a promotion from July 25 to Aug 11 last year, 17 vehicle brands with Tmall.com storefronts sold 3,400 cars valued at 80 million yuan through the website.

However, most of the online vehicle transactions do not really qualify as pure e-commerce, because the buyers generally make down payments online, then go to physical locations to make the remaining payments, said Pan Wei, analyst with the Beijing-based Internet consultancy Analysys International.

There are many online platforms that aim to build automobile e-commerce “empires”, but most merely serve as online media outlets that feed vehicle-related information to potential buyers, said Pan.

Autohome Inc, a leading online portal for vehicle information, formed a strategic partnership with JD.com, Alibaba’s largest competitor in China, in June to develop automobile e-commerce and to facilitate real transactions online.

Pan said that Alibaba enjoys a strong advantage in automobile e-commerce as it has integrated financing service on its online platform.

“But the move doesn’t guarantee a promising future as most people still aren’t used to buying high-priced items such as cars online,” he said, adding that it will take a lot of time for consumers to form this habit and for online retailers to create new methods to increase user loyalty.

Chinese regulators have given the go-ahead to Alibaba Group Holding’s online payment affiliate Alipay

Chinese regulators have given the go-ahead to Alibaba Group Holding’s online paymentaffiliate Alipay to take control of fast-growing fund firm Tianhong Asset Management Co as thee-commerce giant bulks up its push into online finance.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) approved Zhejiang Alibaba E-Commerce Co, the parent company of online payment company Alipay, to purchase 51percent of Tianhong, according to a filing from Tianhong shareholder Inner MongoliaJunzheng Energy & Chemical Industry Co on Thursday.

 

Alipay gets regulator nod for Tianhong dealAlibaba files for $1 billion IPO inUS
Alipay gets regulator nod for Tianhong dealAlibaba helps make China’slargest fund

Alibaba is gearing up for what could be the world’s biggesttech IPO, and online finance has become anotherbattleground for the firm. Though the business unit will belargely kept separate from the offering, it could play animportant role in the entire company’s future growth. 

Tianhong has gone from near obscurity to running China’sbiggest money market fund by assets under management(AUM) in just months after it launched fund platform Yu’eBao, or “leftover treasure”, with Alipay in June last year.

Yu’e Bao’s one-year interest rates are higher than a bank’sregulator-restricted rates for one-year deposits, and are anincentive to deposit money with the platform.

Yu’e Bao, which people can run from their smartphones, isalso linked to China’s biggest online payment platformAlipay, similar to PayPal. Users can dip directly into Yu’eBao to buy products on Alibaba’s huge online shoppingwebsites and anywhere else that takes Alipay.

Alipay’s investment, valued previously at 1.18 billion yuan ($189.11 million), will see the firminject 262 million yuan in registered capital into the fund, according to the filing.

Tianhong had 554 billion yuan in AUM in the first quarter of 2014, from just 10.5 billion yuan ayear earlier, according to Z-Ben Advisors, a Shanghai-based investment managementconsultancy.

China’s millionaire machine slows

China’s millionaire machine has slowed, suggesting that the country’s economic weakness is reaching the top of the economy.

China’s millionaire population grew 3.6 percent last year, adding 100,000 millionaires and bringing its total millionaire count to 2.9 million, according a new report by the Chinese wealth website Hurun. The growth rate marks a sudden slowdown from the double-digit millionaire growth in China in recent years.

By contrast, the U.S. added 640,000 millionaires last year, bringing its total to 9.63 million, according to Spectrem Group. Spectrem defines millionaires as households with investible assets of $1 million or more. 

A man exercises in front of residential buildings along the Shing Mun River in the Sha Tin area of Hong Kong, China.

Jerome Favre | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A man exercises in front of residential buildings along the Shing Mun River in the Sha Tin area of Hong Kong, China.

The number of Chinese worth $16 million or more grew 4 percent to 67,000, according to the report from Hurun and the Industrial Bank. 

Of the 100,000 new millionaires, 30,000 were in Shanghai, 17,000 in Guangdong and 15,000 in Beijing. Beijing still has the most millionaires in China, with 490,000, according to the report.

The report also looked at the health and hobbies of Chinese millionaires. It said the overall “spiritual satisfaction” of Chinese millionaires is relatively high, while the richer millionaires show even higher degrees of satisfaction.

But China’s notorious pollution levels are reaching the penthouses: 87 percent of Chinese millionaires are dissatisfied with pollution levels.

Chinese millionaires spend an average of three hours a week exercising, with jogging, badminton and swimming listed as their top three forms of exercise.

Richest self-made billionaires in Asia

Patrik Stollarz | AFP | Getty Images

They read an average of 10 hours a week, but richer millionaires read 15 hours a week.

“Chinese millionaires are setting aside more time than I expected towards reading and learning, as well as exercise,” said Hurun Report Chairman and Chief Researcher Rupert Hoogewerf.

The top three hobbies of the Chinese rich are fine dining, travel and exercise. Millionaires traveled an average of once a year and spent an average of $10,000.

—By CNBC’s Robert Frank

Chinese Tourists Earmark 65 Pct of Travel Budget to Shopping

hermes_20140114

Chinese tourists continue to make headlines for their shopping spree.

In 2013, an estimated 98 million Chinese traveled abroad, an increase of about 14 million compared to the previous year, according to a report by the China Tourism Academy. Shopping is high on the agenda of these Chinese tourists. About 65 percent of their travel budgets go toward shopping.

chinese_travel_20140114

chinese_travel2_20140114Chinese travelers are enthralled by shopping holidays and there are plenty of them around the world. To help Chinese travelers plan their shop expedition, China Daily has put together a calendar of key months to shop in some of their preferred international destinations.

Chinese Travel trends

Chinese Travel trends

What are the top accommodation and travel trends this year? Boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs Smith have given their predictions.

Local life: Hotels are helping guests get to know the locals or at least get to grips with the local scene. Budapest boutique hotel Brody House champions the city’s artistic energy, holding exhibitions, readings and other cultural events for guests.

Rooms are named after the local artists whose works decorate walls, staff abound with hot tips on what to do in the area and the hotel even has its own record label, Brody House Sounds.

Stay at Claska in Tokyo and you’ll see the city’s best-dressed canines (and owners) pop by for a pooch-pampering treatment at the doggy beauty salon downstairs. Claska also has a gallery, boutique and lively bar, as well as a series of arty events held on the hotel’s rooftop terrace.

Beyond boutique bedrooms, there’s a string of services promising instant immersion with the locals – Eat With, for example, which hooks up hungry visitors with hosts happy to cook dinner for guests in their own homes.

Sleep swamis: The best hotels have been offering guests access to personal chefs, personal trainers, and health and well-being gurus for years. Now some hotels are going the extra mile to ensure that guests even have a fabulous time while they’re asleep.

Anantara Kihavah Villas in the Maldives has a slumber guru responsible for making sure that guests get a restful night. The slumber guru’s bag of tricks includes soothing milk baths, relaxing massages and a pillow menu.

Alila Villas also takes sleep very seriously. Both Alila Villas Uluwatu and Alila Villas Soori have a pillow menu, a selection of essential oils and scented candles up their (pyjama) sleeve.

Seriously social: Like it? Tweet it. Seen it? Instagram it. The social-media savvy are here to stay and hotels are getting wise to marketing via mobile – so much so, in fact, that some have even been built specifically with social media in mind.

Take 1888 Hotel in Sydney, whose design was mapped out to maximize its Instagram-ability, and some of the Melia group hotels, where specialist concierges respond to guest requests via Twitter.

Family affair: Traveling with children in tow doesn’t have to mean compromising on style and service. Mr & Mrs Smith’s new site, Smith & Family, puts family travel first. Hotels are picking up on the trend, too.

A great example is Six Senses Qingcheng Mountain in China (set to open in 2014), which has village-style accommodation that works well for families, an excellent kids club and a panda research center just 10 minutes away where you can interact with pandas and their cubs.

Etihad is even introducing a Flying Nannies service on long-haul flights, with their nannies (specially trained cabin crew members) accredited by Norland, Britain’s leading childcare training college.

On the other hand, Scoot, Singapore Airlines and AirAsia X now offer child-free zones on some flights.

Playing Tarzan: Hoteliers have become increasingly creative when it comes to where guests rest their heads. One trend is the rise of treehouse hotels.

Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses in New Zealand has been giving visitors a natural high for a while but wannabe Tarzans and Janes can now also cuddle up in the canopies at grand country manor Chewton Glen, Hampshire, as well as at Japamala Resort and Bunga Raya in Malaysia.

Beyond the bedroom: Rather than simply providing a space to bed down for the night, hotels are offering even more bang for your buck. They are increasingly places where guests and locals alike can while away the hours, and not simply head straight to their rooms.

The Ace Hotel Bar at the Ace Hotel New York (winner of the Hottest Hotel Bar at the inaugural Smith Awards in November 2013) and The Zetter Townhouse in London are a scene unto themselves.

And while a great bar can put a hotel on the map, lobbies and libraries are jostling for recognition too. Try swinging by the photo booth in the lobby at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club.

Distracting destinations: With the World Cup kicking off in June, 2014 is set to be all about Brazil. Beyond Rio, visit the melting pot of Bahia for its forested interior and stylish seaside resorts, and Ponta dos Ganchos in Santa Catarina for beachcombing and jungle roaming.

Mr & Mrs Smith predicts the southern states of America are on the up, so watch out for Austin’s cool and the understated but sophisticated Zero George Street in Charleston.

Look east to Japan, the next cool kid on the block, which offers Claska in Tokyo, or Beniya Mukayu in Kanazawa. Don’t neglect Sri Lanka – Mr & Mrs Smith website recommends Paradise Road Tintagel Colombo and Casa Colombo in the capital.

Hot hotels: The minimalist masterpiece that is Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland, Canada, is set to make waves on the hotel scene. It won Best Newcomer at the Smith Hotel Awards 2013 because of its soul-stirring location and incredible interiors.

This year, keep your eyes peeled for the opening of Grace Marrakech in Morocco, the Pig near Bath in Britain and Alila hotels in India (Alila Fort Bishangarh in Jaipur) and Oman (Alila Jabal Akhdar).

Delayed reaction: Delays to a journey are always a nuisance but travelers can now choose from a range of services designed to take the sting out of lengthy waits. In the Netherlands, VertragingsApp is an iOS app that offers readers short stories based on the length of their delay.

In Australia, Qantas Airways has created a range of books carefully selected to correspond with flying times.

Based on research that shows the average reader can finish about one page a minute, Stories For Every Journey is a collection of novels and non-fiction titles that are the perfect length to be enjoyed between take-off and landing (allowing breaks for meals, naps and bouts of leg-wiggling, of course).

Room service: Shaken and stirred. In 2013, the New York Hilton Midtown stopped offering breakfast in bed for the residents of its 1,980 rooms. Mr & Mrs Smith predict a fresh approach to in-room snacking from other hotels, too.

Public Chicago leaves a breakfast bag at your door and The Upper House has gone high-tech – guests can order from an iPod touch.

Reuters has not endorsed this list.

http://www.mrandmrssmith.com

China’s Rich Pick Their Top 10 Domestic Getaways

sanya

The results of this year’s Chinese Luxury Traveler White Paper, published by Hurun and ILTM Asia, are in. The report documents the top 10 travel destinations of China’s ultra-rich, based on the face-to-face interviews and questionnaires of over 150 participants worth at least 10 million yuan each. The responses were collected this April and May, with most participants responding from Beijing or Shanghai. The average respondent was 37 years old, and 80 percent of participants were men.

Unsurprisingly, Sanya, Hong Kong, and Yunnan have maintained their hold on the top three slots for another year. Here is a run-down of the Top 10, along with notes on what makes them so popular.

1. Sanya

Considering that Sanya’s geographic position as southernmost city in the country has earned it the reputation of being “the Hawaii of China,” it’s scarcely surprising that the country’s elite are crazy about this place.

 2. Hong Kong

China’s “Shopping Paradise” has kept the number two spot, but other distinct features like the city’s rich financial history, the beautiful Victoria Harbor, and even Disneyland keep tourists interested.

 3. Yunnan

Yunnan literally means “south of the colorful clouds,” but the city’s certainly got a vibrance all its own. It boasts a mild climate year-round, which supports some of the most beautiful flowers and wildlife to be found anywhere.

 4. Tibet

The ancient marvels of Tibet promise to offer tourists unique experiences. Here, top world heritage sites like Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple Monastery, and Norbulingka are easily accessible, and the average elevation of 4,000 meters contributes to a mystical, mysterious atmosphere.

 5. Macao

Macao is an interesting mix of all sorts of things: Eastern and Western architecture, grand structures and sloping hills, administrative bodies and casinos. The Macao Wine Museum, the Grand Prix Museum and the Macao Art Museum also do a good job to ensure there’s something for everyone here.

 6. Hangzhou

Hangzhou is a bustling, historic city that complements the natural life around it beautifully.  The West Lake is its most popular and dazzling feature, but Ling Yin Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in China,  also attracts tourists, as does the famed Hefang Old Street.

7. Beijing

The capital of China, Beijing boasts and impressive number of millionaires to begin with, but those that don’t live here certainly want to visit for its cultural history and political  importance. The Great Wall of China, the Temple of Heaven, and the Beijing 798 Art Zone are just some examples of attractions old and new that draw the masses.

8. Shanghai

With the Bund, the City God Temple, and the Yuyuan Garden, as well as the explosion of art and fashion the city is currently experiencing, Shanghai’s inclusion on this list is another no-brainer.

9. Quingdao

“The Switzerland of the Orient,” this charming port city is renowned for its Tsingtao beer and the Qingdao International Beer Festival.

10. Xinjiang

Xinjiang stands out for its luscious fruit, famous all over the country. Hami melon, pears, grapes, and apples are at their sweetest here.

 

[china.org.cn]