Alibaba Mulls AppNexus Stake as U.S. Strategy Takes Shape

In the latest sign of Alibaba Group’s aspirations to be a major player beyond its home base of China, the soon-to-be-public Web giant is considering making an investment in U.S.-based advertising technology firm AppNexus, according to people briefed on the recent discussions.

According to one U.S. Internet executive who was briefed by Alibaba on its U.S. strategy, the company wants to take stakes in numerous non-Chinese Web companies beyond the handful of investments and acquisitions it has already made. It would then have a front row seat to evaluate new technologies and be able to stand “close to the hoop” and possibly acquire the firms that take off, this executive said.

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Tencent, which is older than Alibaba and competes with the company on several fronts, and can legitimately call itself as a global company: its WeChat messaging service has more than 100 million registered accounts outside of China. The company has had representatives in the U.S. for years. Three years ago, it began making serious investments, including in Riot Games, Epic Games and gaming giant Activision. Later, it made investments in startups that participated in the well-known Y Combinator program in Silicon Valley.

—Jessica E. Lessin contributed to this article.


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Alibaba representatives have spent time explaining to prospective public-market investors why the company should be valued more like an ad seller such as Google than a product seller and shipper like Amazon.