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CORRECTED-Offering discounts galore, Alibaba launches China's first post-COVID Singles' Day

(Corrects paragraph 3 to say Katy Perry performed for the first time at the Singles’ Day gala)

SHANGHAI, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd kicked off its annual Singles’ Day mega-shopping event on Wednesday, looking to cash in on consumers itching for discounts as the economy rebounds from the COVID-19 crisis.

This year’s online shopping extravaganza also comes a week after Alibaba lost almost $76 billion of its market value, following China’s suspension of the $37 billion listing of Ant Group, the financial technology firm Alibaba owns a third of.

Pop star Katy Perry made an appearance at the company’s gala for the first time, albeit via livestream, as travel restrictions on outside visitors remain in place in China.

Alibaba has said it will introduce more than 2 million new products, double the amount last year.

Analysts expect that this year will be a boon for luxury brands, as Chinese consumers accustomed to going overseas to buy high-end goods are now stuck at home.

Andy Halliwell, senior director retail and retail analyst at digital consultancy Publicis Sapient said in a note that “the lack of consumer tourism which has hit European and U.S. stalwarts like Harrods, Galeries Lafayette and Nordstroms will likely see bigger spending locally”.

Alibaba launched the online blitz early this year, with two primary discount periods taking place from Nov. 1 - Nov. 3 and again on the full day of Nov. 11.

According to the company, within the first hour of the event on Nov. 1, its e-commerce sites Taobao and Tmall sold over 110 million cups of coffee, 4.2 million kilograms (9.3 million pounds) of rice, and 2.5 million kilograms (5.5 million pounds) lb) of tea.

The company will calculate Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) over the full 11-day period, as opposed to the usual 24-hour period.

Alibaba first launched the shopping event in 2009 and has made it the world’s biggest online sales festival, eclipsing Cyber Monday in the United States. Last year, it recorded $38.4 billion in GMV on the day.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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