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Alibaba forms automotive, 'smart living' business units

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

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the world's biggest e-commerce company, has formed an automotive unit and a 'smart living' division in the past week, the firm said on Friday, as it ramps up its cloud computing, hardware and big data operations.

Alibaba, like many rival Chinese tech firms, is racing to introduce Internet and computing capabilities to various kinds of everyday products, ranging from televisions and home appliances to cars.

This has the $214-billion company pitched against rivals like social networking and online entertainment giant Tencent Holdings Inc, search leader Baidu Inc, e-commerce competitor JD.com Inc and hotshot smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc [XTC.UL].

In this packed field, China's online shopping titan is banking on its big data analysis and cloud computing abilities to provide an edge, as it looks to repeat the successes it has seen in overall e-commerce with more specialised categories.

The automotive business unit includes car marketing services built around Alibaba's big data analysis, online retail site Tmall's car sales section and providing loans to help people buy vehicles, an Alibaba spokeswoman said in an email to Reuters on Friday.

Almost 50 car brands and 10,000 dealerships have partnered with Alibaba in China, the company said. Last month, Chinese auto maker SAIC Motor Corp Ltd said it would join forces with the e-commerce company to invest 1 billion yuan ($161.08 million) in a fund to develop Internet-connected cars.

Alibaba's new 'smart living' division is comprised of Tmall's electrical appliances online shopping category, some cloud computing operations and online customer-to-customer marketplace Taobao's crowd funding platform, said the firm. This platform allows smaller businesses to raise capital from a large group of investors and promote and sell their goods.

($1 = 6.2080 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI and Paul Carsten in BEIJING; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)