Alibaba Shuts Quantum Computing Lab in Sign of Broader Cutback

China's leading e-commerce company is undergoing a restructuring led by Joseph Tsai and Eddie Wu, who assumed control of the company in September.

Bloomberg News

November 27, 2023

2 Min Read
photo of Alibaba office

(Bloomberg) -- Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has shuttered its quantum computing research lab, a sign that the Chinese e-commerce and cloud operator is considering more cutbacks to bulk up the bottom line.

Alibaba will donate its equipment to Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, where the company is based, a company spokesperson said Monday. The lab’s closure will result in the loss of about 30 staff, some of whom Alibaba may help find positions at the same college, a person familiar with the matter said, asking to remain unidentified discussing private decisions.

China’s e-commerce leader is in the middle of an overhaul spearheaded by Joseph Tsai and Eddie Wu, two confidantes of co-founder Jack Ma who took over the company in September. This month, the pair announced they were killing the much-anticipated spinoff and listing of the cloud services division, an about-face that spurred speculation about other changes to Alibaba’s long-term roadmap.

Before that surprise decision, the firm was in the midst a complicated six-way split that would break the company up into component businesses from commerce and entertainment to logistics.

Last week, Tsai and Wu took the first steps toward revamping the cloud arm, which has been bleeding market share to state-backed rivals. The company appointed three new executives to head up major business lines within Alibaba Cloud, with two reporting directly to Chief Executive Officer Wu.

Related:China Launches Its Largest Quantum Cloud Platform update from August 2023

The DAMO Academy — which Ma himself inaugurated with much fanfare in 2017 — was supposed to be Alibaba’s “moonshot” division, responsible for exploring and delivering on cutting-edge technologies. The academy has driven research into fields as disparate as the metaverse, robots and semiconductor design. 

Chinese media outlets first reported the lab shutdown. To keep a lid on costs, Alibaba has downsized its workforce since 2022 and has laid off more than 30,000 employees in past quarters.

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