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Alibaba Singles Day Shopping Festival Sells $2B in First Hour

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Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA) said about $2 billion worth of goods were sold on the e-commerce giant's websites within the first hour and 12 seconds of its annual shopping festival.

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Alibaba did $3.1 billion in business in half a day during last year's festival, equivalent to what it sold in the full day in 2012.

Half of the $2 billion gross merchandise volume this year was sold within the first 18 minutes after the "11.11 Shopping Festival" opened, the company said.

The sale, which the company claims is the world's biggest 24-hour online sale, began in 2009 when 27 merchants on the company's Tmall.com site offered deep discounts to boost sales during an otherwise weak period.

This year's festival is global, reaching shoppers in more than 200 countries, the company said.

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(Reporting By Sai Sachin R in Bangalore; Editing by Don Sebastian)