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China's Alibaba to launch online fund sales service: media

An employee walks past a logo of Alibaba Group at its headquarters on the outskirts of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in this May 17, 2010 fil
An employee walks past a logo of Alibaba Group at its headquarters on the outskirts of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in this May 17, 2010 fil

By Paul Carsten

BEIJING (Reuters) - Alibaba Group Holdings has secured approval from the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) to act as a third party for the online sale of fund products, local media group Caixin reported on its website.

The fund products will soon be available on Alibaba's Amazon-like Taobao website, according to the report.

No-one at Alibaba was available to comment.

The approval marks a further step for Alibaba towards providing an alternative to China's tightly regulated traditional financial system.

Alibaba affiliate Alipay, whose parent company Zhejiang Alibaba E-Commerce Co is controlled by billionaire Alibaba founder Jack Ma, said in August that it had partnered with 37 funds to offer wealth management products to its customers.

AliPay's fund payment platform Yu E Bao, or "leftover treasure", launched its Zenglibao fund, managed by the fledgling Tianhong Asset Management Co, in June.

The Zenglibao fund, a money market product, is the most successful fundraising by any mutual fund in China this year, attracting 55.7 billion yuan ($9.14 billion) in assets under management from 13 million customers as of September 30.

Rivals Tencent Holdings and Baidu Inc have also launched their own financial services platforms, and Tencent has also applied for approval for various banking services, as China's Internet companies shift away from their traditional online businesses in search of greater profit.

Alibaba founder Ma has said in the past that if China's banks don't change, Alibaba would change the banks, and that a finance industry outsider was needed to "stir things up".

In September Alibaba signed a strategic pact with mid-sized lender China Minsheng Banking Corp Ltd to offer financial services, including cooperating on wealth management and credit card businesses, direct banking and information technology.

Those forays into financial services have irked China's conservative banking sector, and there has been backlash, analysts say.

In August, Alipay said it was shutting its offline point of sales (POS) service for small companies. China's biggest third-party payment service provider said it had halted the service for "obvious reasons" and hinted at external pressure.

($1 = 6.0938 Chinese yuan)

(Editing by David Evans)

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