Alibaba broadens offline reach with $865 million Easyhome stake

FILE PHOTO: A sign of Alibaba Group is seen at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Asia 2016 in Shanghai, China, May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo (Reuters)

BEIJING (Reuters) - Alibaba Group Holding will pay about 5.45 billion yuan ($866 million) for a 15 percent stake in China's Easyhome, a home improvement chain, as the internet giant expands its investments in offline and retail businesses.

The investment underscores the company's retail strategy, aimed at leveraging offline and online activities, Alibaba said in a statement.

Easyhome, which started operations in 1999, is China's second-biggest home improvement supplies and furniture chain operator, the statement said. The Beijing-based company reported more than 60 billion yuan in sales last year.

Alibaba has been making sizable investments in the country's retail sector since 2015, when it took a 20 percent stake in local electronics retailer Co for $4.6 billion.

In November, Alibaba agreed to take a $2.9 billion stake in China's top hypermarket operator, Sun Art Retail Group Ltd.

"Physical stores serve an indispensable role during the consumer journey, and should be enhanced through data-driven technology and personalized services in the digital economy," Alibaba Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang said at the time.

Last year, Alibaba also led the $2.6 billion privatization of Intime Retail Group Co as part of its move into bricks and mortar activities.

($1 = 6.2966 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting By Matthew Miller; editing by Richard Pullin)