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Alibaba provides help for online merchants hit by coronavirus outbreak

Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba Group has unveiled measures to help small and medium-sized enterprises in China affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

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In an open letter published on a day when many businesses across the country were resuming their operations after an extended Lunar New Year break, the group emphasised the importance of containing the outbreak, while also ensuring the continuation of economic development and the survival of enterprises.

Alibaba had already established two task forces to support SMEs during the outbreak and said the new measures would ramp up efforts to help merchants during this difficult period.

Measures range from service fee exemptions for online merchants on Tmall to discounted loans offered through MYBank.

All online stores operating on its flagship Tmall will be exempt from service fees for the first half of the year, while all stores on Tmall and Taobao.com will be able to use an essential online tool kit to revamp their online storefronts free of charge, the company said in a statement. Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post, will also waive two months’ rent for new users of its Cainiao logistics networks.

“We must make sure the services sector is ready to re-enter the race, and that funds get into the hands of the enterprises that need them,” the company said.

Alibaba is among technology companies that are pouring billions into philanthropy, to endear themselves to the tens of millions of bored, homebound Chinese consumers, hunkered down for the world’s largest quarantine exercise.

New-economy companies – whether it is online shopping on Taobao.com and Tmall, food deliveries on Meituan Dianping’s platform or Tencent Holdings’ online games – will benefit from the lockdown, analysts have said.

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