China Postal deepening ties with Alibaba?

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With the meteoric rise of both e-commerce and express shipping across China, a distribution relationship between Alibaba and SF Express seems to be a natural fit. However, with SF Express recently showing interest in developing its own e-commerce businesses, Alibaba may consider SF Express as more of a competitor, making China Postal Airlines a more comfortable distribution option.

Cargo Facts, a sister publication to Air Cargo World, reported last week from the Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference in Hong Kong that an increasing amount of Alibaba shipments are now moving through Hong Kong International via China Postal, possibly at the expense of SF Express’s air division, SF Airlines.

Further, according to a report in CargoForwarder Global, China Postal has long-term plans to become Alibaba’s “main distributor” by cooperating with several cargo and combination carriers rather than operating a large fleet of long-haul freighters itself. One panelist at a recent German Aviation Press Club event in Leipzig was quoted as saying that China Postal is currently looking for a hub to handle Alibaba shipments to Europe and is considering “slipping into the role” of integrator.

While Alibaba currently dominates the e-commerce sector in China, responsible for roughly 80 percent of all online sales in that country, SF Express is beginning to make some inroads on its market share. In 2012, SF Express launched SFBest.com, a premium food website where Chinese consumers can order fresh, hard-to-find gourmet selections and cold beverages and have them delivered directly to consumers via the cold chain operated by SF Express.

China Postal Airlines currently operates fourteen 737-300Fs, eight 737-400Fs, and ACMI-leases 757-200Fs, mostly delivering domestic express mail for China Post.

SF Express, meanwhile, currently accounts for about 21 percent of China’s express delivery market, with air cargo volume reaching 1 million tonnes per year.

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