Alibaba groceries arm Freshippo CEO to retire, to be replaced by CFO

Credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Adds letter details, background

BEIJING, March 18 (Reuters) - Freshippo, the groceries arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group 9988.HK, has told its staff that its CEO Hou Yi will step down and retire and be replaced by the unit's current CFO, Yan Xiaolei, according to an internal letter seen by Reuters.

"From now on, Hou Yi will step down as CEO of Freshippo and retire with honor," the letter said. "Yan Xiaolei will serve as CEO."

Yan is currently CFO of the company. The letter also said Hou will continue as "chief honorary advisor" of Freshippo for the future.

Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Hou, 60, joined Alibaba in 2015 and created Freshippo the next year as part of the company's "new retail" revolution. Before that he had worked in the logistics department of JD.com 9618.HK.

The leadership reshuffle at Freshippo is the latest one at e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, which has seen a number of its senior leaders depart or move into new roles as the company undergoes a restructuring and strategy rethink.

Alibaba had initially told investors that it planned to list Freshippo before May this year but abruptly halted that plan in November. Still, Alibaba's chairman Joe Tsai told anearnings calllast month that its physical retail businesses were not its core focus and that it made sense to exit them.

Reuters reported in February that Alibaba was looking to sell a number of consumer sector assets including Freshippo. A Freshippo spokesperson denied at the time that Alibaba planned to sell the company.

On Sunday, Chinese media outlet Yicai reported that Freshippo and retailer RT-Mart denied reports that Alibaba planned to sell Freshippo for 20 billion yuan and RT-Mart for 10 billion yuan to China's state-owned food processing giant Cofco.

(Reporting by Sophie Yu, Brenda Goh, Editing by Louise Heavens and David Evans)

((Sophie.Yu@thomsonreuters.com; 861056692136;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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