Has Alibaba Lost Itself in Cyberspace with Odd Business Ventures?

BEIJING (TheStreet) --"Alibaba wants to rule China" was one reader's quip posted Wednesday on a Chinese news portal under a story about the company's latest business: vegetable and fruit e-farming.

The comment highlighted Alibaba's powerful and ongoing push into a wide range of new businesses, including many that have little or nothing to do with its core services as China's leading platform for wholesale, business-to-business and retail e-commerce.

In the past year the company, which is planning a New York Stock Exchange initial public offering that could raise a record $20 billion next month, has expanded into wealth management products, film and TV production, software, used-car sales, logistics and now an e-farming initiative that links online clients with farmers who grow their food.

Read More: 10 Stocks George Soros Is Buying

Until last week, Alibaba also ran a credit service for small enterprises. It sold the service to its online payment affiliate Alipay for $518 million.

Alibaba's main business is a virtual marketplace, encompassing the successful Web sites Taobao and Tmall, that posted more than $248 billion in sales last year.

How the company's recent string of startups, acquisitions and spinoffs will affect this year's financials won't be clear until months from now, long after the anticipated IPO. So unless they're careful, investors studying Alibaba's prospectus with a view to buying stock could easily overlook some of the company's latest business moves.

For example, there's nothing in the prospectus about the e-farming initiative reported by state media Wednesday. It started in March as China's "first Internet customization for private farms," the report said. "Users who simply click a mouse buy a piece of land and become a 'landlord' who gets fruit and vegetables from the land every month."

If you liked this article you might like

AI Pioneer Andrew Ng: There's Room for Multiple Winners in the AI Race

Why Apple Pay Cash Won't Be a Venmo Killer: PayPal CEO

PayPal Has Billions in Cash and Is On the Prowl for Acquisitions

PayPal Hunting for a Big Deal?

PayPal's Venmo Gets Ready to Take on Apple