Jack Ma just opened Alibaba Australia and New Zealand in Melbourne

Maggie Zhou and Jack Ma in Melbourne, for the opening of the Alibaba ANZ headquarters. (Source: Tony Yoo)

MELBOURNE — The second wealthiest man in China, Jack Ma, has opened an Australian and New Zealand headquarters for his e-commerce company Alibaba.

Ma launched the Melbourne office today in front of more than 350 business and political figures keen to see the man that built a fortune worth at least $36 billion from humble beginnings.

“Alibaba Group will help Australian and New Zealand businesses share their world-famous products with billons of customers around the world,” he said.

Ma has a personal link to Australia from his teenage years when, as a 12 year old boy, he befriended an family from Newcastle that was visiting his hometown of Hangzhou. He later visited the Morley family in Newcastle as a teenager in the 1980s.

“Australia will always have a special place in my heart and that’s why I’m so pleased to come back to contribute to supporting Australian businesses to create opportunities and jobs in a country that’s meant so much for me.”

Alibaba ANZ managing director Maggie Zhou said that a physical regional headquarters in Melbourne would be “a key step” in supporting local business customers crack the lucrative Chinese market.

“Longer term, Alibaba Group’s vision for the ANZ region is to build the entire operating infrastruture needed to enable local businesses to expand globally,” she said.

Jack Ma in Melbourne, for the opening of the Alibaba ANZ headquarters. (Source: Tony Yoo)

Alibaba Cloud opened a data centre in Australia late last year and the company says more than 1000 physical stores in Australia and New Zealand, including the Sydney Fish Market, accept Alipay – an electronic payment system designed for Chinese customers purchasing abroad.

Zhou said that “this is just the start”, forecasting incursions into the digital entertainment and logistics industries in Australia.

The Victorian government has paid an undisclosed subsidy to entice Alibaba to choose Melbourne as its regional base. Ma defended accepting the assistance at a press conference today, saying that the company doesn’t “need the money” and that the benefits would flow back to the local small business community.

“In China, they say if a company gets money from the government it’s a stupid company. We appreciate the generosity and the friendliness of this government and I promise we will use this money in a better way.”

At the launch, Alibaba also signed a memorandum of understanding with Australia Post that allows the postal service to enter the south-east Asian market through virtual storefronts on the Lazada platform.

Among the politicians welcoming Ma and Alibaba at the event were federal innovation minister Arthur Sinodinos, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews and New Zealand economic development minister Simon Bridges.

The journalist travelled to Melbourne courtesy of Alibaba.