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Report: Alibaba nearing deal to form JV with Russian partners

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is close to forming a joint venture e-commerce company with Russian internet company Mail.ru Group Ltd. and sovereign wealth fund Russian Direct Investment Fund, or RDIF, the Financial Times reported Sept. 2, citing Russian officials and other people involved in the deal.

The size of Alibaba's planned investment in the joint venture is still unknown, one of the sources told FT.

According to the report, Alibaba founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma remarked that the Chinese e-commerce company "should join forces in developing Russia" when he shared a stage with Russia President Vladimir Putin last autumn, during one of Ma's several visits to the country.

A Russian official also reportedly told the newspaper that the plan is part of China's "digital silk road" project.

Alibaba debuted its online marketplace Tmall in Russia in September last year.

The FT report comes nearly three months after Alibaba was reported to be in talks with Russian bank VTB Bank (PJSC) to set up a joint venture to help the bank better compete with Russia's largest lender PAO Sberbank of Russia, whose negotiations with Alibaba collapsed.

The newspaper said the RDIF and Mail.ru partnership is considered a replacement for the failed deal with Sberbank.