China's richest tech companies could make serious cash off unicorns

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Image: Hwee Young/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

It’s a good time to be a Chinese internet giant.

China’s biggest internet companies stand to reap major rewards from investments in other Chinese tech companies, according to data released by CB Insights. 

Almost half of China’s “unicorns” — private companies valued at $1 billion or more — have taken investment from one of the reining giants: Alibaba (and its affiliate Ant Financial), Baidu, JD.com, and Tencent.

The chart below highlights the varied investments each Chinese internet giant has made. Tencent leads the pack with 15 investments in Chinese unicorns.

Those four companies remain dominant in China’s market, and having interests in all of China’s most successful private companies should keep them there. 

A quick primer: Baidu is primarily a search engine, similar to Google; Alibaba is an ecommerce company often compared to Amazon; JD.com is also an ecommerce company, with ties to Walmart; and Tencent is a holding company that operates a number of popular services including popular messaging services WeChat and QQ.

Of the companies they’re invested in, Didi Chuxing stands out. The company, basically a Chinese version of Uber, was most recently valued at $50 billion. It has received investments from Tencent and Alibaba, as well as plenty of money from outside of China.

If Didi (or any of the other unicorns) end up going public, China’s internet giants are poised for a healthy payday, though they’ll likely hold on to a chunk of their investment. Still, that kind of move tends to help out on corporate balance sheets. 

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