Alibaba says no plans for expanding presence in Vancouver

Don’t expect the Alibaba Group (NYSE: BABA) to make its presence known in Vancouver in the form of operations or facilities just yet, according to the Chinese e-commerce giant.

Jennifer Kuperman, Alibaba’s head of international corporate affairs, said the so-called “Amazon of China” is focused on expanding its footprint in Canada but its first priority is Toronto

That’s where Alibaba is hosting the Gateway ‘17 conference on September 25 in a bid to entice more Canadian companies to sell their products to the Chinese market.

“There is over half a billion Chinese consumers using Alibaba to shop,” Kuperman told Business In Vancouver on Roundhouse Radio 98.3 FM.

“In the case of Canada, it’s [the Gateway conference] very much about helping small businesses and brands access those consumers and sell their goods, but also help Chinese consumers come to Canada and travel and really learn about the country.”

Since its US$25 billion initial public offering in 2014, Alibaba has been closing in on Amazon’s (Nasdaq: AMZN) position as the world’s most valuable e-commerce company.

Last month, Alibaba’s market capitalization reached US$420 billion. Amazon’s market capitalization is US$465 billion.

So if Alibaba was going to make a bigger play for North America, why wouldn’t it consider opening a regional office in Vancouver?

The city touts itself as a gateway to Asia, the federal government is making it easier for skilled workers to immigrate to Canada and Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s son has attended Vancouver’s St. George’s School.

When asked if Alibaba had plans to open facilities, offices or operations in Vancouver, Kuperman said it’s not in the cards.

“Our first real foray into Canada and reaching Canadian businesses is this Gateway conference,” she said.

“We do not have the specifics planned for anything in Vancouver. But we are very committed to the Canadian market.”

Following a 2014 meeting in China with Ma, former Conservative industry minister James Moore tweeted out that “Alibaba is seriously considering a new campus in Vancouver.”

Click here to listen to the full interview with Jennifer Kuperman.