Beijing — Tencent Holdings and will buy a slice of one of China’s largest online retailers for $863m, forging an alliance to take on Alibaba in e-commerce and digital payments. The pair agreed to buy shares in US-listed Vipshop Holdings at a premium of 55% to their previous close. The deal comes with a business co-operation pact that includes setting aside real estate for Vipshop on JD’s site and Tencent’s digital wallet, a thriving and integral part of the WeChat messaging service used by close to a billion people. Once known mainly as a video games distributor, Tencent has grown WeChat into China’s premier social media platform. Now it plans to use that ubiquity and JD — in which it holds a significant stake — to fend off e-commerce leader Alibaba Group. Monday’s agreement comes days after Tencent unveiled a $635m deal to buy 5% of hypermart chain Yonghui Superstores — a rare incursion into a physical retail arena that Alibaba covets. "Tencent and JD need this assistance gi...

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