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Chinese retail giant Alibaba signs deal with UK e-lenders to provide trade finance

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The move comes nearly five months after Alibaba closed the world’s largest initial public offering (IPO) ever – worth $25bn – and signals the ecommerce company’s efforts to expand its presence beyond mainland China.

Under the terms of the partnership, which will be called the Alibaba.com e-Credit Line, small and medium-sized businesses will be able to apply for a line of credit, receive approval, and then use that credit to make multiple draw downs to finance purchases on the platform. Funds are then disbursed directly to the supplier in China, facilitated by either ezbob or iwoca.

The news is the second major development featuring ezbob in the last two weeks after the e-lender merged with Everline, bringing together two business that have lent a combined £54m through 5,000 loans since 2012.

Commenting on the deal, Alibaba European marketing and business development director Wei Duan said: “We know that small businesses need fast access to trade finance in order to compete and succeed. We want to make financing as easy as possible for the millions of British companies that do business through Alibaba.

“Working with the leaders in this field, ezbob and iwoca, offers each of our customers an advanced and integrated trade finance service package.”

Customers will be able to secure financing of up to £50,000 for up to six months through iwoca and £50,000 to £120,000 for up to 15 months from ezbob.

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Speaking to Real Business when his previous business Everline was snapped up by ezbob on 24 February, new ezbob COO Russell Gould had said: “Ezbob has an incredible underlying technology platform and underwriting process. We have a great brand in the market and I think are strong on sales and marketing. Bringing those together is like the perfect marriage.”

Explaining the new deal with Alibaba, Gould added: “We predict that this will help fuel a significant increase in UK trade volume on the Alibaba platform.

“As the UK’s largest business e-lender we welcome the opportunity to help small businesses to negotiate with suppliers from a position of strength with readily available funds.”

Recent figures showed that combined sales through Alibaba’s ecommerce platforms Tmall.com and Taobao Marketplace rose 49 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2014, from the same period the previous year. The Chinese business now has 300m active users, reported profits for 2013 of $4.31bn and facilitates 12.7bn annual orders.

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