Baidu Buys Into Tech Investment Firm to Boost AI Push
Chinese search engine Baidu Inc. has agreed to invest 1.4 billion yuan ($200 million) in tech-focused investment firm Neusoft Holdings Co. Ltd. to help develop its artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing business.
Baidu said Tuesday the investment would forge a strategic partnership between the two companies to jointly develop so-called smart projects involving city management, health care and education services. Established in 2011, Neusoft is an investment company focused on AI, cloud computing and big data services in those areas.
Meanwhile, Baidu Chief Technology Officer Wang Haifeng will join the board of Neusoft Holdings as part of the deal, the company said.
The move represents Baidu’s latest attempt to offset its slowing growth by tapping emerging technology businesses. The search engine giant, once the gateway to China’s internet during the desktop computer era, has lost its luster over the past decade as it struggled to keep pace with the rise of mobile apps.
In the first quarter this year, Baidu booked its first quarterly loss since it listed on the Nasdaq in 2005, citing a challenging market environment denting its core online advertising business.
Baidu has been repositioning its business focus to sectors including AI, cloud computing and automatic driving in recent years. Earlier this year, the company undertook a management rework that included promoting Jing Kun, who led business and technology development for Baidu’s voice assistant platform DuerOS, to vice president of the company.
This is not Baidu’s first investment in companies affiliated with Neusoft Holdings. In March it poured 22.5 million yuan into subsidiary Neusoft Medical Systems, which mainly manufactures medical equipment and cloud services for remote medical image analysis. It now owns 1.01% of the company.
In June, Baidu entered a partnership with Neusoft Group, a software unit of Neusoft Holdings, to develop AI technologies in health care and city management.
Contact reporter Tang Ziyi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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