Moscow — Alibaba Group is setting up a $2bn joint venture with billionaire Alisher Usmanov’s internet services firm Mail.ru Group to strengthen the Chinese company’s foothold in Russian e-commerce. Asia’s most valuable company signed an accord on Tuesday with Mail.ru to merge their online marketplaces in the nation of more than 140-million people. The deal is backed by the Kremlin through the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the local investors will collectively control the new business. Mail.ru’s global depository receipts traded in London jumped as much as 12%. The combined company will be better able to compete with local rivals Wildberries and Yandex. Alibaba’s Russian unit AliExpress mostly sells goods imported from China and hasn’t had to worry about competition from Amazon because the US behemoth has little presence in the country. "A big part of what we’ve been able to develop so far in Russia has been our cross-border business," Alibaba president Mike Evans told reporters...

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