Alibaba taps LendingClub to aid US expansion

The logo of Alibaba Group is seen inside the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province early November 11, 2014.
Aly Song | Reuters
The logo of Alibaba Group is seen inside the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province early November 11, 2014.

Alibaba is finding new and creative ways to crack the U.S. market.

The Chinese e-commerce giant said Tuesday that it's partnering with LendingClub to help small businesses in the U.S. finance their purchases on Alibaba.com.

While Alibaba is in no hurry to take on Amazon.com in the U.S. consumer e-commerce market, the Chinese site has proved to be an attractive place for American businesses to purchase bulk items such as blue jeans, makeup sets and computer equipment.

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Businesses in need of short-term financing to buy those products had been using a Chinese bank that partnered with Alibaba. That capital will now come from LendingClub, a San Francisco-based online debt provider that got its start in the consumer credit market and is expanding to small businesses.

Loans of up to $300,000 will be available for terms of one to six months, with annualized interest rates ranging from 6 percent to 28.8 percent. LendingClub Chief Executive Officer Renaud Laplanche said the low end of the pricing range is half the rate that borrowers on Alibaba have seen to date.

"Their desire to provide better, more flexible financing with better terms is part of their expansion strategy in the U.S.," Laplanche said in an interview.

China commerce accounted for 85 percent of Alibaba's $4.22 billion in revenue in the latest quarter, the Hangzhou-based company said last week. Alibaba.com is the primary source of revenue for the company's international business.

"We want to make financing as efficient as possible for the millions of U.S. buyers that do business through Alibaba.com and are pleased to bring LendingClub's simple, low cost and transparent financing products to our U.S. buyers," Michael Lee, Alibaba.com's global marketing and business development director, said in the press release.

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For LendingClub, the Alibaba partnership comes about two weeks after a similar deal let Google's small business partners get credit to buy Google's cloud products. However, while Google is supplying the capital to its partners, and thus acting as the lender, Alibaba is counting on the individuals and institutions that invest on LendingClub's platform to provide the financing.

Laplanche said there's plenty of demand among investors. And he added that LendingClub is in the very early days of forging these types of business partnerships. A deal to work with business buyers on Amazon could even be on the horizon.

"Because of the way we operate and being fully online, we have a unique opportunity to be embedded into online marketplaces and partner with other tech companies," Laplanche said.