Alibaba to Spin Off $12 Billion Cloud Business

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has announced its decision to completely spin off its cloud business, Alibaba Cloud, raising questions about whether the move is driven by market pressures or political considerations. The $12 billion cloud division, once seen as a key driver for the company, has faced challenges in recent years, including regulatory scrutiny and competition from rivals like Huawei and state-run China Mobile. This article explores the factors behind Alibaba’s decision and its potential implications.

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Alibaba to Spin Off $12 Billion Cloud Business

Alibaba has been heavily invested in the cloud computing business for over a decade, offering hosting and computing services to corporations on the Internet. Alibaba Cloud was considered one of the company’s most significant achievements, driving global growth and leading internal initiatives. However, the Chinese government’s increased scrutiny of privately owned cloud services, starting in 2020, raised concerns about sensitive data and triggered a crackdown on the internet sector.

Reasons for the Spin-Off

Alibaba’s cloud division, Alicloud, faced regulatory issues, including a major software flaw and involvement in a cybersecurity data leak. Competitors like Huawei Technologies Co and state-run China Mobile Ltd eroded its market share. The decision to spin off the cloud business raises questions about why Alibaba chose to alienate analysts who valued the cloud division at over $30 billion. This move impacts the valuation of Alibaba Holdco, as the once fully distributed cloud business will no longer contribute to its value.

Alibaba’s Historic Six-Way Shakeup Unveiled

Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang recently revealed a groundbreaking plan to restructure the company, which includes completely relinquishing control of Alibaba Cloud. The move surprised many and prompted speculation about the underlying reasons. The plan aims to streamline the company’s operations and respond to market demands, but it also raises questions about Alibaba’s long-term strategy and relationship with the Chinese government.

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Alibaba Cloud’s Significance and Challenges

Similar to Amazon, Alibaba’s cloud service initially grew to support millions of online shopping transactions simultaneously. However, unlike its American counterpart, Alibaba Cloud had the advantage of operating in a relatively new Chinese market for web-based computing. It contributed to Alibaba’s profitability and played a vital role in the company’s annual Singles Day Gala, showcasing its global reach. Furthermore, Alibaba Cloud’s DAMO Academy worked on groundbreaking projects such as chip design and quantum computing.

The Significance of Alibaba Cloud

Alibaba Cloud has been a major investment for Alibaba, generating around $12 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2022. It played a crucial role in supporting Alibaba’s core e-commerce operations, processing millions of transactions during events like the Singles Day Gala. The cloud division also contributed to the company’s profitability and worked on ambitious projects in areas like chip design and quantum computing. Its spinoff raises concerns about the impact on Alibaba’s overall valuation and growth prospects.

Market Reaction and Investor Speculations

The news of Alibaba’s cloud spin-off had an immediate impact on the company’s stock, with shares dropping as much as 5.9% in Hong Kong. Some investors believe that the spin-off represents a significant capital return, while others question whether the decision was influenced by the Chinese government. Way Sern Ling, managing director at Union Bancare Privy, states that the cloud business is relatively independent and not directly related to Alibaba’s core e-commerce activities, but investors may still wonder about the government’s involvement.

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Political Realities and State-Backed Cloud Providers

Beijing’s intensified scrutiny of cloud services operated by private firms, along with its preference for government-controlled data storage and internet services, has favored state-backed cloud providers. Institutions in China, such as China Construction Bank and local municipalities, have already started shifting towards state-backed cloud platforms. These factors may have influenced Alibaba’s decision to spin off its cloud business.

Implications for Alibaba and the Cloud Industry

Alibaba’s cloud spin-off represents a move to simplify its structure and respond to market needs. The creation of a standalone platform could attract external financing and potentially surpass Alibaba in size. The decision to combine cloud computing and AI research under one umbrella reflects the close relationship between these two fields. As AI breakthroughs require increasing computational power, making cloud computing more accessible and affordable becomes crucial for enterprises.

Alibaba’s Future Plans and IPOs

As part of the broader restructuring plan, Alibaba aims to launch its Cainiao logistics unit and conduct an IPO for its Freshippo grocery chain within the next 12 to 18 months. The company also plans to seek external financing for its international commerce division, which includes operations like Lazada based in Singapore. These strategic moves are intended to unlock value and drive revenue growth for Alibaba amid increasing competition in the e-commerce sector.


Alibaba’s decision to spin off its cloud business, known as Alibaba Cloud, raises questions about whether it is driven by market or political realities. The company’s cloud division has faced regulatory issues, cybersecurity concerns, and increased competition from rivals like Huawei and state-run China Mobile. The spin-off is part of Alibaba’s larger restructuring plan, which includes separating the cloud services division as an independent entity and distributing stock to shareholders.

The move impacted Alibaba’s stock price and led to speculation about the Chinese government’s involvement. Beijing’s scrutiny of privately owned cloud services and preference for state-backed providers may have influenced Alibaba’s decision. The spin-off could simplify Alibaba’s structure, attract external financing, and make cloud computing more accessible for enterprises.

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