Alibaba Group will invest around US$725 million over five years in its online shopping site Taobao.com, the Wall Street Journal reported. The financial commitment – more than three times the sum Alibaba has invested in Taobao since it launched in 2003 – is seen as an attempt to curtail the e-commerce aspirations of rival Baidu.com, which started testing its own shopping site last month. Baidu, the country’s preeminent internet search provider, is expected to launch Baidu Youa before the end of this year. Alibaba CFO Joseph Tsai said the company’s decision was prompted by faster-than-expected growth for online shopping, not Baidu’s move. Online consumer sales in China are likely to increase to US$18.49 billion this year, up from US$2.34 billion in 2005. Alibaba said US$6.35 billion exchanged hands on Taobao in the first six months of this year.