Thursday Tech Briefing: Bytedance, Tencent, Alibaba
1. Bytedance on Verge of Closing Latest Funding Round, Raising Less Than $3 Billion
Bytedance Technology Co, owner of news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, aims to raise no more than $3 billion in its latest funding round, which would see its valuation soar to as high as $75 billion.
Softbank, KKR, General Atlantic and Primavera Capital Group have confirmed their participation in this round. Sources also said that Yunfeng Capital, a private equity firm cofounded by Alilbaba’s Jack Ma, will be one of the backers.
This latest funding round will make Bytedance the second most valuable company in China’s private equity market, just behind Ant Financial Services Group. Unlike most Chinese startups, Bytedance is independent from China's tech giants – Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba. (Caixin, link in Chinese)
2. Millions of Cathay Passengers Hit in Worst Airline Data Hack
Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. became the target of the world’s biggest airline data breach after a hacker accessed credit card, passport and personal details of some 9.4 million customers, Bloomberg reports.
The airline’s shares slumped to the lowest intraday level in nine years, shaving as much as $361 million off its market value, after the Hong Kong-based carrier said it discovered suspicious activity on its network in March and confirmed the unauthorized access in May. Details of the origin of the attack were not disclosed.
The hack is in another league compared to breaches reported by British Airways Plc and Delta Air Lines Inc. this year. Those carriers boosted spending on cyber security after hacks, which saw personal and financial information of hundreds of thousands of customers illegally accessed. (Bloomberg)
3. Tencent Forms Joint Venture With Superstores ParknShop, Yonghui
App developer Tencent Mobility Ltd., Hong Kong supermarket chain ParknShop and mainland-based Yonghui Superstores will form ParknShop Yonghui, a joint venture valued at 1.25 billion yuan ($179 million).
Yonghui will own a 50 per cent stake after making an equity contribution worth 622 million yuan, while ParknShop and Tencent will own 40% and 10% respectively.
The move comes after Tencent spent 5.2 billion yuan on a 5% stake in Yonghui in December, in an effort to compete with Alibaba in China’s offline retail market. (Company statement)
4. China Said to Be Halting Special Approval Process for New Games
China’s regulators have ended the issuance of game licenses through a stopgap approval process, closing the last known official path for making money from new titles in the world’s biggest gaming market, Bloomberg reports.
Licenses are no longer being granted through a process known as the “green channel”， used for testing both domestic and foreign games. The approval mechanism had been in place since at least August, following the government’s decision earlier this year to restructure how it reviews video games for violence, gambling and sensitive topics.
The new restrictions in the $38 billion market threaten the fortunes of game companies such as Tencent Holdings Ltd. and NetEase Inc. and add to the uncertainty about the Communist Party’s long-term plans for regulating the industry. (Bloomberg)
5. Chinese Air-Conditioner Giant to Absorb Washing-Machine Veteran
Midea Group Co. Ltd., controlling shareholder of washing machine maker Wuxi Little Swan Co. Ltd., will absorb the remaining stake in the company via a share swap.
Midea will issue new shares in exchange for both A and B shares of Little Swan, at premiums of 10% and 30% respectively. The deal is priced at more than 14.4 billion yuan ($2.07 billion).
The move aims to avoid possible competition and to consolidate both companies’ businesses worldwide. (Caixin)
6. Haier GDRs Open Flat in German Trading Debut
German-traded shares of appliance giant Qingdao Haier Co. Ltd. opened flat in their Wednesday trading debut in Frankfurt, after pricing weakly in the maiden listing under a new pilot program.
The float made Haier the first company to be listed in Frankfurt under CEINEX, a joint venture set up in late 2015 by the Shanghai Stock Exchange, German stock exchange operator Deutsche Boerse, and the China Financial Futures Exchange.
Haier had priced its German Depositary Receipts (GDRs) late last week at 1.05 euros ($1.20) apiece, at the low end of its previously announced range, raising 278 million euros. The GDRs opened at 1.06 euros in their Wednesday trading debut, and were trading at 1.05 euros a short time later. (Caixin)
7. Alibaba Used Shoppers' Data to Invent a Spicy Snickers Bar
In recent months, Alibaba has helped Mars Inc. create a candy bar and given Unilever NV valuable data for a new line of pollution-fighting cosmetics; then, the e-commerce giant advised both companies how to market the products, Bloomberg reports.
According to Bloomberg, Alibaba’s cross-platform harvesting of data takes some of the guesswork out of marketing. Since a big chunk of shopping will always happen offline, the company is using Alipay and its retail-management software Ling Shou Tong to ferret out insights from the brick-and-mortar world.
It’s all part of Executive Chairman Jack Ma’s “New Manufacturing” strategy, which he hopes will help define the future of the Chinese economy and cement Alibaba’s place in it. (Bloomberg)
Compiled by Qian Tong and Hou Qijiang
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