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Lazada brings Alibaba's biggest bazaar to Singaporean shoppers

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Alibaba's bringing its teeming Taobao internet marketplace to Singapore.

[SINGAPORE] Alibaba's bringing its teeming Taobao internet marketplace to Singapore.  Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Lazada Group SA are teaming up to sell select Taobao products direct to shoppers in the affluent island-state, striking their first partnership since the Chinese company took control of Southeast Asia's largest e-commerce operator a year ago.

Lazada is launching a dedicated website that links directly to Alibaba's largest shopping platform, said Alexis Lanternier, chief executive officer of Lazada Singapore. To start with, the new site will add 400,000 Taobao products that aren't available now to an existing lineup of about 5 million products, he said.

It's another small step abroad for Alibaba, which has ambitions to expand beyond a slowing Chinese home market. The company and Lazada are now preparing to deepen their operations in the fast-growing region, anticipating Amazon.com Inc's entry in 2017. The South-east Asian company has been expanding its delivery network and exploring new areas such as online groceries.

In linking Taobao with Lazada, the two are trying to ease a process that's gained momentum in recent years. Bargain hunters in Singapore already buy directly from Alibaba's Chinese marketplace, an eBay-like online bazaar where small merchants and individuals hawk items from electronics to bed-sheets. Its items often go for a fraction of retail prices in Singapore, the world's most expensive city according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

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Many people however buy through agents who help with English translations, payments and deliveries - for a fee. That's led to problems with returns, Mr Lanternier said.

Scams may be another issue: Taobao re-joined the Notorious Markets list last year, a name-and-shame pool of global markets the US Trade Representative considers rife with counterfeits. Taobao can be difficult to police because it's an open marketplace, but Lazada will take swift action to protect consumers if it's notified of fakes, Mr Lanternier said. 

"We want to solve those difficulties, enabling an effortless way for them to shop," Mr Lanternier said, sharing the new initiative for the first time.

"Now it's all translated into English and you don't have to worry about shipping options, payment method, returning. You are going to be able to track your order end-to-end."

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