You've probably heard of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA) , but there's a good chance you don't know what they really do.

This is not just a Chinese version of Amazon (AMZN) or eBay (EBAY) or PayPal (PPAL) ... it's all of those things and more.

Just look at Alibaba's e-commerce business. There's Taobao, which is China's largest online marketplace. It allows small businesses and individuals to not just sell items, but also provide product knowledge and lifestyle content.

Alibaba also runs more conventional consumer goods sites like Tmall which focuses on the Chinese market and AliExpress where you can shop here in the U.S.

Together these online businesses account for about 70% of Alibaba's revenue. We recently saw U.S. e-commerce giant Amazon buy Wholefoods (WFM) . What you might not know is that Alibaba has already been transforming grocery stores and department stores in China with its big data.

Alibaba made its hardware debut this month with a smart speaker called the Tmall Genie x1. At $73, it is cheaper than most of Amazon's Alexa devices, Google's (GOOG) Home speaker and the upcoming Apple (AAPL) Homepod.

Alibaba shows no sign of slowing down. In its 2017 fiscal year ended March 31, Alibaba reported that $547 billion worth of merchandise was sold on its platforms, an increase of 22% from the previous fiscal year. The company tells investors it predicts it will hit $1 trillion in gross merchandise value in 2020. And some big-names are eager to hop along for the ride

Billionaire Dan Loeb's Third Point bought 4.5 million shares of the company, which would have a current net worth of about $700 million, or 0.1% of Alibaba. Previously, Third Point sold all 10 million shares of Alibaba that it owned in early 2015 for about $1 billion, but started adding back to its position in late 2016. In its second-quarter letter to shareholders, Third Point noted that Alibaba is impressive because it has surpassed Third Point's estimates for gross merchandise value (GMV), revenue and earnings, and has also updated its advertising options.

Dan Loeb.
Dan Loeb.

"We view these changes as an important catalyst for meaningful revenue acceleration over the next few years," the firm wrote. "Combined with an attractive multiple, we believe now is the time to own Alibaba again."

In addition to Third Point, David Tepper's Appaloosa Management disclosed a new 3.7-million share stake in Alibaba, Julian Robertson's Tiger Management reported a new stake of 214,000 shares, while Stan Druckenmiller's Duquesne Capital disclosed a new stake of 710,000 shares.

The SEC requires large investment companies to disclose their holdings within 45 days after the end of each quarter, but does not necessarily reflect their current ownership stakes.

The newly disclosed stakes come ahead of Alibaba's 2018 first quarter report, due out before Thursday's market open. Analysts are expecting the company to report earnings of 92 cents per share on $7.02 billion in revenue.

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Jim Cramer explains how to play Alibaba's usually volatile earnings report

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