Financial relief aims to reboot Wuhan economy

Ding Yining
Walmart China, Tencent and JD are just a few of the big companies working to get the epidemic-wracked city back on its feet economically.
Ding Yining

Big businesses are investing money and offering financial assistance to Wuhan and Hubei Province to help the area's economy recover from a coronavirus-related downturn.

Walmart China said on Wednesday that it will invest 3 billion yuan (US$422.5 million) in Wuhan over the next five years with plans to add four Sam's Club stores, 15 shopping plazas and dozens of community stores to reboot the economy of the epidemic-hit city. 

President and CEO of Walmart China Wern-Yuen Tan sealed the strategic framework deal through a remote signing ceremony hosted by the Wuhan government on Wednesday. 

"After operating in Wuhan for 15 years, this marks the start of our new collaboration," he said. 

Meanwhile, Tencent is planning to add 4,000 new staff to its online education affiliate in Wuhan and also set up offline service centers in the city. 

It will further set up a smart mobility innovation incubation facility through a partnership with Dongfeng Motor Corporation as well as an artificial intelligence research lab to revive development of the digital economy.

JD will add 6 billion yuan of investment in Hubei Province in the next three years to fund digital infrastructure construction, and to support industry clusters and poverty-stricken rural areas. 

JD will expand its smart logistics facility covering the whole Hubei Province in addition to its current warehouse in Wuhan, and will also help the local government with the setting up of a digital management platform for emergency relief supplies. 

From April 1 to 7, sales of Hubei merchandise and orignal Hubei originated brands on JD doubled from a year ago and 1,400 tons of agricultural products from Hubei were dispatched to shoppers nationwide. 

Meanwhile, spending on shopping sites and delivery data are also showing rebound signs. 

JD-backed on-demand delivery platform Dada said the number of online grocery and fresh food orders in Wuhan as of 10am today is nearly four times larger than a month ago, and the number of delivery staff also added 270 percent.

Wuhan nail salon owner Qiu Mengyi is among one of the micro businesses to receive interest-free loan from Alibaba's digital lender MY Bank. 

She received a 52,000-yuan loan for her nail salon in Guanggu District, which normally had an average monthly revenue of 200,000 yuan before it suspended business for three months. 

"This would help pay some of the rent from the previous months and relieve cash stress, and I remain confident that as quarantine restrictions loosen, customers will gradually return and business will be back to normal," she said. 

As many as 360,000 individual business owners in Wuhan are eligible for one-month interest-free loans amid other incentive measures.

Alipay designed a special section on its home page, enabling users to access livestreaming of tourist destinations across the city. It also allows orders to be placed directly for local specialty merchants. 

Taobao has offered a dedicated livestreaming featuring 400 million yuan worth of Hubei specialty agricultural products and in-demand food items.

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