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Business trends

Alibaba says Singles' Day sales hit $13bn in first hour

World's biggest online sales event starts up 32% from last year

A screen shows the value of goods being transacted during Alibaba Group's 11.11 Singles' Day global shopping festival at the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, Nov. 11.   © Reuters

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -- Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Inc said on Monday that sales for its annual Singles' Day shopping blitz hit 91.2 billion yuan ($13 billion) within the first hour, up 32% from last year's early haul of 69 billion yuan.

Akin to Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States, Singles' Day has been promoted as a shopping fest by Alibaba Chairman and Chief Executive Daniel Zhang since 2009, growing rapidly to become the world's biggest online sales event.

Also known as "Double Eleven", the festival's name originates from the calendar date 11/11, with the four ones referencing being single.

Alibaba saw sales worth $30 billion on its platforms on Singles' Day last year, dwarfing $7.9 billion U.S. online sales for Cyber Monday. Yet the 27% sales growth was the lowest in the event's 10-year history, spurring a search for fresh ideas.

The $486 billion Chinese retail juggernaut kicked off this year's 24-hour shopping fest with performances by American pop star Taylor Swift and local celebrities like Jackson Yee.

This is the first time Alibaba's Singles' Day does not have flamboyant co-founder Jack Ma at its helm, after he resigned in September as chairman.

It also comes at a crucial time for the company, which is looking to raise up to $15 billion via a share sale in Hong Kong this month.

Alibaba continues to dominate the online shopping industry, but not without competition.

In addition to longtime rival JD.com, it now faces competition from upstart Pinduoduo, which surged in popularity in 2017 by targeting consumers in China's lower-tier cities. 

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