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Taobao offering online funds

By Meng Jing and Cai Xiao | China Daily | Updated: 2013-11-02 07:21, an online marketplace owned by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, wants to help people manage their money by offering fund products., which gets 100 million daily visits on average, on Friday opened a vertical site named Licai, which means financial management in English, offering shoppers a convenient way to buy fund products.

At least 17 Chinese fund companies have started to sell money market funds, and bond and stock funds through, according to a press release from Alibaba on Friday.

Alibaba said that had received a no-objection letter from the China Securities Regulatory Commission permitting funds to be sold on the website.

That makes the first Internet company to offer such a service in China.

"We want more people to understand that fund products are nothing mysterious and the threshold to buy such products is not high," said Yuan Leiming, an executive of Alibaba's small and micro financial services group.

Yuan added that selling fund products online is just part of the company's plan for expansion into Internet finance.

Baidu Inc, the biggest Internet search provider in China, has also moved into financial services by launching an online finance management product, called Baifa, in late October.

The rumored annual yield of 8 percent attracted so many prospective depositors that Baidu's system crashed within 30 minutes after the product was launched.

After a brief outage, Baidu reported that all of the 1 billion yuan ($163 million) worth of the financial product had been sold by 2:50 pm, five hours after the launch.

The unusually high interest rate for Baifa (ordinary financial products usually offer an annual yield of about 4 percent) sparked an investigation by the CSRC.

The commission said on Friday, however, that although Baidu doesn't have a license to sell fund products, the company didn't break any laws.

"Baidu didn't participate in selling the fund. It was only responsible for the network traffic involved in selling the Internet fund product, which is owned by China Asset Management Co Ltd," according to a CSRC representative.

The CSRC representative said that the emergence of Internet financial products is in line with market demand.

"Internet financial products offer convenience for investors. Regulators need to meet the demands of the market and do whatever they can to protect investors' interests," the CSRC representative said.

China's financial sector has only limited competition, said Wu Xiaoqiu, a finance professor at Renmin University of China.

"Internet finance can force the Chinese financial sector to change fundamentally, and that's a very positive trend," said Wu.

Wu suggested that regulations for Internet finance in China should be revised so the sector develops in a sound manner.

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