On 5 December Alibaba-owned Cainiao Group and Liege Airport sealed their contract on the 50-year lease for a 22-ha site at the airport. FedEx will get a fierce competitor at LGG. Or will it?
The double official signing ceremony has put an end to over 6 months of negotiations and nail-biting. Over the last few weeks some rumours would have it that LGG’s largest customer FedEx was
putting its foot against the door to keep the Alibaba and its logistics arm Cainiao at bay.
This is something the airport’s VP Commercial Steven Verhasselt does not want to comment on, even if he has an understanding of some concerns FedEx might have. “FedEx is developing its own project at LGG and they realise that space is scarce at airports. We have, however, been able to convince all our stakeholders of our latest project.”
“Because in the long run there are a lot of advantages for all parties,” he says. “If the cake gets bigger, everybody will get a bigger slice. Even today FedEx and Alibaba/Cainiao already collaborate to a certain extent and this will offer additional opportunities for FedEx at LGG.”
Another advantage is in the economy of scale and cost reduction, Mr Verhasselt adds. He also sees possible opportunities in aircraft sharing. “Why should an aircraft flying for FedEx at night not be used for Alibaba daytime operations?”
For the time being Alibaba’s volume, between Liege Airport and Hangzhou, is flown by ASL Aviation. “But with Alibaba forecasting 5 to 6 widebodies a day, there is no doubt that other carriers will have to step in,” Mr Verhasselt concludes. “Not only to and from Hangzhou, but also involving other airports in China.”
Electronic World Trade Platform
The official signing of the lease contract between Cainiao Smart Logistics Network Ltd. and Liege Airport was part of a larger ceremony. It was preceded by the signing of a MoU between the Federal Government of Belgium and Alibaba Group Holding Limited to promote inclusive trade under the so-called Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP).
It is aimed, in particular, at SME’s. According to Belgium’s PM Charles Michel the federal government has made a lot of efforts to make the country more attractive for foreign investment.
This eWTP was initiated by the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, Jack Ma. It is intended for sharing best practices, incubating new trade rules and fostering a more integrated and inclusive policy and business environment to promote the digital economy.
Including ports and diamond industry
The Belgian-Chinese MoU is part of a larger scheme of economic cooperation between the two countries. Earlier this month a new internet platform was introduced allowing Chinese customers to buy certified diamonds in Antwerp which will ultimately be delivered by Alibaba.
Last May the Shanghai Lingang Economic Development Group announced an investment of €85 million in the Belgian Port of Zeebrugge for the construction of a services and distribution park. This, again, will handle e-commerce volume.
Apart from the ports of Zeebrugge and Antwerp Belgium and China are already connected by 11 air services, said the Chinese ambassador to Belgium Cao Zhangming. “Alibaba will give the Belgian e-commerce market an entirely new dimension,” the diplomat predicted.
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels