Alibaba, Unilever announce partnership to reach Chinese consumers

The logo of the Alibaba Group is seen inside the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song (Reuters)

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Chinese ecommerce company Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd announced on Sunday that it had signed a strategic partnership agreement with Unilever NV to help the consumer products group reach more Chinese shoppers. The British-Dutch maker of Dove soap, Lipton tea and Ben & Jerry's ice cream opened a store on Alibaba's online marketplace Tmall in 2011. The partnership will allow Unilever to expand its distribution channels to reach rural consumers in China and use data from Alibaba's online marketing unit, Alimama, and its cloud business to improve its digital advertising strategy. "We are very pleased to amplify our partnership with an industry leader such as Unilever," said Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang in a statement. The two companies did not disclose any details on the financial terms of the partnership. Unilever's sales in China fell 20 percent in the final three months of 2014 as retailers cut inventories to deal with a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy. Unilever makes more than half its sales in emerging markets. It reported stronger-than-expected sales in the most recent quarter and said it saw signs of improvement in its major markets such as the United States, China and India. (Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Andrea Ricci)