Alibaba Freezes Hiring as Ma Says Company Must Be Efficient

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The Alibaba Group Holding Ltd exhibition space at the CeBit tech show in Hanover, Germany, on March 16, 2015.

The Alibaba Group Holding Ltd exhibition space at the CeBit tech show in Hanover, Germany, on March 16, 2015.

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Billionaire Jack Ma said he is freezing all hiring at Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. because the e-commerce company is expanding too quickly.

The hiring freeze also applies to some companies controlled by Alibaba, Ma said in a speech to employees. The current level of 30,000 workers should be enough to maintain operations, Ma said in a transcript posted to an official Alibaba account on the social-media application Laiwang.

Alibaba, which is Asia’s largest Internet company, processes more than 11 billion orders a year from 334 million active buyers. Ma, who has ambitions to service more than 2 billion consumers by 2019, said Alibaba would only hire a new employee when a current one quits.

“This year our entire group’s headcount won’t increase by one person,” Ma said in the speech posted Tuesday. “The purpose is simple: we need to get into formation. I think 30,000 people is efficient.”

Alibaba’s American depositary receipts fell 3.1 percent in New York on Wednesday, the most in almost three months.

Alibaba faces slowing revenue growth in China and is boosting spending to develop its overseas business. Ma wants more than 50 percent of sales to come from outside China, and the company aims to connect with more than 10 million small businesses abroad.

The company is betting on emerging markets -- including Russia, Brazil and India -- to sustain the next wave of exports, and it is trying to help Chinese buyers gain greater access to brands from the U.S. and Europe.

AliExpress, the company’s market for customers outside of China, was founded in April 2010 and is already the top shopping site in Russia and Brazil.

As China introduces more policies to make it cheaper to import overseas goods, Alibaba is competing with JD.com Inc. to introduce more brands from the U.S. and Europe. The customs agency is allowing seven cities, including Shanghai and Guangzhou, to test cross-border e-commerce.

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