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Business tycoons leading the way as big data firms make big impression in China

BEIJING--Big data is a relatively new phenomenon in China, but it is already making a big impression, attracting some of the biggest names in Chinese business circles.

Jack Ma, the founder and chief executive of Alibaba Group, which owns China's biggest e-commerce platform Alibaba.com, is banking on big data for further business expansion and growth. Alibaba has invested a large amount of money on big data initiatives, including recently buying a further 20.62 percent stake in Heng Sheng Electronics Technologies Co Ltd for a contract value of 3.3 billion yuan (US$530 million).

As a result of that deal Jack Ma has become the largest shareholder in Heng Sheng Electronics, his cumulative stake in the company now standing at 99.1 percent.

Industry sources say the deal is the biggest move by a Chinese company regarding big data.

Explaining the acquisition, sources say Heng Sheng Electronics is a major solution provider for banking, financial investment, property, telecommunications and logistics industries. It also provides core systems for many fund management companies, especially modules for transaction, settlement and investment.

However, the main interest for Alibaba is the large volumes of financial data that Heng Sheng has access to. Sources say that while Alibaba had increased its knowledge about people's behaviour through its online marketplace taobao.com and Alipay, the online payment system, it is still looking for more data about investment and funding.

The acquisition will help Alibaba become a more powerful group, not only in e-commerce but also in financial services and banking industries, the sources say.

Tencent, the largest Internet company in China, recently launched Xin Ge - it means pigeon in Chinese - a big-data application for smart phones.

It can categorize 700 million users of the popular Tencent application QQ according to their gender, spending, interests and location.

It is also a typical example of how big data analysis is proving to be an important tool for marketing experts. The findings enable product developers do their work with specific target groups in mind.

“Big data will create a tailored and competitive e-commerce system for companies,” says Zhou Tao, a professor with the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

Li Ka-shing, the richest Chinese person, is another of the big entrepreneurs betting big on big data.

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