SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's biggest online retailer 360buy.com will start selling directly to overseas buyers on Thursday, the first such move by a major Chinese e-commerce firm, as it struggles with increasing competition at home.
Its move into the global market, where it wants to take on Amazon.com Inc, will be closely watched by other Chinese e-commerce companies.
An August price war between 360buy, Suning Appliance, and GOME Electrical Appliances Holding, now under investigation by the government, is also pushing the firm to seek new business outside China.
The privately-owned firm's English-language website, en.360buy.com, will open for trade with almost 400,000 new products for sale, from electronic appliances to baby milk powder. It will deliver some of those free of charge, a company official said, confirming a report in the China Daily newspaper. The firm will ship to 36 countries, the official added.
"In the initial stage, we want to buy made-in-China products domestically and deliver them to overseas clients," 360buy's Vice President Shi Tao told the China Daily newspaper.
The company also plans to set up warehouses outside China to shorten delivery times.
In China, 360buy competes with Alibaba Group's Taobao operations, as well as Amazon and Ecommerce Dangdang Inc. Though Taobao is by far the country's biggest e-commerce firm, it hosts other companies which sell goods, whereas 360buy sells and delivers products itself.
China's e-commerce industry grew 45 percent year-on-year in the second quarter to reach 278.84 billion yuan ($44.58 billion)in transaction volume, a research firm said this week.
Alibaba expects its Taobao sites to sell merchandise this year worth more than that sold by Amazon and eBay combined.
($1 = 6.2545 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Kazunori Takada and Daniel Magnowski)