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BUSINESS & TECH

By Ding Yi / May 29, 2020 06:23 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing’s autonomous driving subsidiary has raised more than $500 million in its first funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Didi said Friday.

The external investment is the largest ever for China’s autonomous driving sector, Didi added in its statement on the matter.

Beijing-based Didi began testing self-driving cars in 2016 before spinning off its autonomous driving division into an independent company in 2019.

Last month, Didi rolled out a development plan, with self-driving vehicles as one of its main focuses over the next three years. The company said that it had obtained licenses to test self-driving cars in the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou as well as California.

The investment comes as China moves to increase investment in infrastructure that supports technology and science based work.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Didi Steers Towards More Trips, Self-Driving in Three-Year Plan


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BUSINESS & TECH

By Ding Yi / May 29, 2020 12:40 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

EHang, a drone operator that has pioneered the use of self-driving “air taxis” for sightseeing trips in China, is seeking to move into air cargo transportation.

The Guangzhou-based company has obtained approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to use its autonomous aerial vehicles in a commercial pilot program for heavy-lift air logistics, according to a company statement released Wednesday.

The trial will be conducted in the city of Taizhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, using EHang 216 passenger-grade autonomous aerial vehicles. Those drones will be authorized to transport up to 150 kilograms of goods per flight “between ground and hilltop and between shore and islands”, the statement said.

EHang said that the approval is based on the Pilot Operation Rules (Interim) for Specific Unmanned Aircraft introduced by the CAAC in 2019, when the company was also allowed by the government agency to pilot programs aimed at exploring the country’s airworthiness standards and management systems for autonomous aerial vehicles.

The Nasdaq-listed company is also planning to gradually expand the air logistics pilot project to other parts of China after it collects enough operational data, the statement added.

EHang’s foray into air logistics comes a month after it announced plans to build an “airport” in a southern Chinese city popular among tourists for its karst topography. Construction of the facility is set to be completed by the end of this year, when some 20 EHang 216 two-seat autonomous aerial vehicles will take tourists for sightseeing trips, the company said.

EHang reported a net loss of 200,000 yuan ($28,000) in last year’s final quarter, which narrowed from 30.7 million yuan a year earlier. The company said that the global urban air mobility market will reach $1.5 trillion by 2040, with air logistics likely to become a key revenue source, citing Morgan Stanley.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Air Taxi Maker EHang Eyes Scenic Guangxi for World’s First ‘Airport’ for Self-Flying Vehicles


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By Ding Yi / May 28, 2020 04:02 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

New York-listed Chinese video streaming platform Bilibili has announced plans to raise $650 million through the sale of convertible senior notes, as the company seeks more cash to expand its user base.

The notes will mature on June 15, 2027, and can be converted into Bilibili’s American depositary shares (ADS), the company said in a statement published Wednesday.

Bilibili will use the proceeds to enrich content offerings, research and development and other general corporate purposes, the statement said.

The bond sale comes less than two weeks after Bilibili said its net loss widened 175% to 538.6 million yuan ($76.1 million) in the first quarter of 2020. Bilibili attributed the expanded loss to the growth of its marketing, branding and employment budgets.

However, Bilibili saw explosive growth in its user base during the same quarter, when monthly active users jumped 70% year-on-year to 172.4 million while the number of monthly paying users more than doubled to 13.4 million.

Bilibili is striving to change the entrenched notion that its platform is only a paradise for animation lovers, as gaming has emerged as one of its major revenue streams.

Last month, the Shanghai-based company was the recipient of a $400 million equity investment from Japan’s entertainment giant Sony, expanding the roster of its big financial backers that also include Tencent and Alibaba.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Sony Invests $400 Million in Streaming Site Bilibili


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By Ding Yi / May 28, 2020 09:10 AM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese tech giant Tencent plans to invest 500 billion yuan ($70 billion) in digital infrastructure over the next five years in response to a government call to energize the world’s second-largest economy with investment in “new infrastructure”.

“New infrastructure” is broadly defined as infrastructure that supports technology and science based projects.

The massive investment by Tencent will focus on areas ranging from cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) to 5G networks, quantum computing and supercomputer centers, according to a company statement published Tuesday.

Tencent did not provide further details about the investment plan, but underscored the progress it has made in boosting its cloud computing capabilities. The company has built a network of data centers housing more than 1 million servers, the statement said.

In the fourth quarter of 2019, Tencent controlled 18% of China’s cloud infrastructure service market, far behind market leader Alibaba, which grabbed 46.4%. Alibaba has announced plans to spend $28 billion on its cloud infrastructure over the next three years in a bid to help businesses embrace digitalization.

Tencent will also deepen partnerships with scientific research experts, laboratories and top universities to cultivate talents, tackle scientific problems and formulate industry standards, the statement added.

Tencent’s announcement comes days after Chinese premier Li Keqiang highlighted the role of “new infrastructure” in China’s push to accelerate the tech-driven structural upgrade of its economy in his government work report delivered to the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s top legislature.

Last month, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country’s top economic planner, divided “new infrastructure” into three areas: information-based infrastructure such as 5G and IoT; converged infrastructure supported by the application of the internet, big data and AI; and innovative infrastructure that supports scientific research, technology development and product development.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Alibaba Now Controls Nearly Half of China’s Cloud Service Market, Research Says


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By Ding Yi / May 27, 2020 04:43 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Chinese electric carmaker BYD has brought in a group of 14 strategic investors to charge up its newly reorganized semiconductor subsidiary with a major cash injection in exchange for a share of the company.

BYD said the investors will collectively inject 1.9 billion yuan ($266 million) into BYD Semiconductor, putting the company’s value at 7.5 billion yuan, according to a statement released Tuesday.

In exchange for their money, the investors will get 20.2% of BYD Semiconductor, while the remainder will be held by BYD, according to the statement.

The investors include Shenzhen Sequoia Hanchen Equity Investment Partnership, Zhongjin Pucheng Investment and Advanced Manufacturing Industry Investment Fund, according to the statement.

BYD Semiconductor will use the funds to supplement working capital, fuel research and development and hire employees.

Following the announcement, BYD’s Hong Kong-listed shares dropped by 2.9% as of 3 p.m. Wednesday.

In April, BYD, whose backers include billionaire investor Warren Buffett, reorganized its wholly owned subsidiary BYD Microelectronics and rebranded it BYD Semiconductor, whose major businesses involve developing, producing and selling power semiconductors, intelligent control integrated circuits and smart sensors.

BYD is also reportedly mulling plans to separately list BYD Semiconductor in due course.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: BYD Spins Off Semiconductor Business for Planned Share Listing


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By Ding Yi / May 26, 2020 05:38 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Tencent-backed game-centric livestreamer DouYu reported staggering profit growth in the first quarter of 2020, as its paying user base expanded significantly during the Covid-19 outbreak.

For the three months through March, DouYu’s revenue grew 53% year-on-year to 2.28 billion yuan ($321 million), more than 90% of which came from its livestreaming business. Its net profits skyrocketed to 254.5 million yuan from 18.2 million yuan a year earlier, according to the company’s latest earnings report released Tuesday.

The Nasdaq-listed company attributed the results mainly to its efficient operational strategy and strong growth in paying users.

During the period, the average number of paying users increased 26.2% year-on-year to 7.6 million, DouYu said.

In the earnings report, DouYu also projected that its second-quarter net revenue will reach between 2.36 billion yuan and 2.41 billion yuan, representing more modest year-on-year growth of between 26% and 28.7%.

Tencent is also a major financial backer and the biggest shareholder of DouYu’s domestic rival Huya, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Tencent Becomes Majority Shareholder in Chinese Game Live-Streamer Huya


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By Bloomberg / May 26, 2020 10:44 AM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

ByteDance Ltd.’s millennial sensation TikTok and its Chinese twin app Douyin ranked top in the world among mobile apps for April revenue, according to Sensor Tower data that excludes games and advertising.

Focusing narrowly on in-app purchases, TikTok and Douyin’s numbers for the month showed a tenfold increase to $78 million, propelling them ahead of more established names like YouTube, Tinder and Netflix, which rely more on existing subscriptions.

The Chinese market, served by Douyin, contributed 86.6% of the app income, followed by the U.S. with 8.2%. In either version of the video-streaming app filled with dance videos and memes, users can purchase virtual currency to spend on supporting their favorite creators.

Like many social media platforms, ByteDance is testing the waters of online commerce, even while it continues to rely on advertising as its main source of income. Emarketer expects that more than 75 million US social-network users aged 14 and older will make at least one purchase from a social channel in 2020, up 17.3% from 2019.

In 2020’s first quarter, TikTok and Douyin generated 315 million downloads globally, up from 187 million a year earlier, said Sensor Tower, noting the positive influence of Covid-19 on the video-sharing apps’ popularity.

Related: Inside ByteDance, the $75 Billion Unicorn Behind TikTok


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By Bloomberg / May 26, 2020 03:26 AM / Business & Tech

Meituan Dianping reported a smaller-than-expected 13% slide in revenue during China’s nationwide Covid-19 lockdown and warned that the fallout from the pandemic will continue to affect the world’s largest meal delivery business over the rest of 2020.

Sales fell 12.6% to 16.8 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) in the three months ended in March, beating the 15.6 billion yuan average of analysts’ estimates. It also reported a lower-than-projected net loss of 1.58 billion yuan. Meituan shares rose 6% in Hong Kong before earnings were announced. It’s gained roughly $40 billion in market value since China began to return to normal in mid-March.

Backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., Meituan’s sprawling services from food delivery to in-store dining and hotel booking were among the most vulnerable during China’s Covid-19 shutdowns.

“Our food delivery business was facing significant challenges on both the supply side and demand side for the first quarter of 2020,” the company said in its exchange filing. “Moving on to the remainder of 2020, we expect that factors including the ongoing pandemic precautions, consumers’ insufficient confidence in offline consumption activities and the risk of merchants’ closure would continue to have a potential impact on our business performance.”

Before the outbreak, the internet services giant made an aggressive push into arenas from online travel to ride-hailing. While the business that encompass hotels and travel posted a 31% plunge in March-quarter revenue, Meituan’s much smaller new initiatives segment — which includes bike- and car-hailing — actually grew sales 4.9%, aided by the launch of a new grocery delivery service.

While Meituan is expanding offerings to sell things like handsets and farm produce, rivals including Ant Financial and SF Express, both backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., are elbowing their way into Meituan’s core takeout business. Alibaba’s food-delivery arm Ele.me is also engaging in a subsidy battle for market leadership.

Longer term, Meituan will also have to grapple with China’s worsening economy, which may further dent consumer spending.

Meituan may signal some business recovery in the second quarter as China reopens its economy, but it could take some time for consumer confidence to fully recover, especially for its travel business, wrote Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Ver-Sern Ling and Tiffany Tam in a research note.

Related: Courier SF Express Takes on Alibaba, Meituan With Trial Takeout Service

 

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By Ding Yi / May 25, 2020 05:58 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Electronics giant Xiaomi has agreed to invest $102.84 million for an additional 27.44% stake in Zimi International, a Chinese firm that develops Internet-of-Things (IoT)-based products, smart hardware and mobile accessories. The investment is part of ongoing efforts by Xiaomi to create an ecosystem of interconnected products and services supplied by itself and smaller tech firms.

Xiaomi will pay $25.78 million in cash and pay the rest through the allotment of 54.4 million shares for the deal, which will increase its total stakes in Zimi to 49.91%, according to a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Thursday.

Zimi’s power-related technology can be applied to Xiaomi’s smartphones and other IoT-based products for “higher competitiveness, standardization of power-supply of our products to reach cost saving,” Xiaomi said.

It added that Zimi’s research and development capability, industry resources, and operating experience in power-related products, cameras, speakers and other products will “facilitate and improve the competitiveness of the company’s future ecosystem products.”

In January, Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun said that the company will invest at least 50 billion yuan ($7.2 billion) on 5G, artificial intelligence and IoT over the next five years, which are an essential part of the company’s new strategy.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Xiaomi Says It Will Restart India Production by June


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By Han Wei / May 23, 2020 06:20 AM / Business & Tech

Stay-at-home orders during the Covid-19 pandemic pushed up sales on China’s major e-commerce platforms as more people went online for daily essentials.

Industry behemoth Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. reported stronger-than-expected 22% revenue growth for the fiscal fourth quarter ended March 31. Rival Pinduoduo Inc. posted a 44% revenue gain for the same three months.

“The pandemic has fundamentally altered consumer behavior and enterprise operations, making digital adoption and transformation a necessity,” said Daniel Zhang, chairman and chief executive officer of Alibaba. Total annual active customers on Alibaba’s platforms expanded to 960 million globally, or about one of every eight people worldwide, the company said.

Alibaba’s revenue climbed to $16.1 billion, according to the company’s earnings report Friday. Net income declined 99% to $49 million, mainly reflecting decreases in the market value of equity investments in publicly traded companies, Alibaba said. On an adjusted basis, Alibaba earned $1.30 a share, up 7% from a year ago.

The company projected that sales for its next fiscal year could jump 25% to $91 billion. For the 2020 fiscal year, Alibaba’s revenue rose 35% to $72 billion. Net income for the year was $19.8 billion, up 75% from the previous year.

Discount group-buying site Pinduoduo reported revenue of $923.8 million. Its net loss widened to 4.12 billion yuan in the quarter ended March 31 from 1.88 billion yuan a year earlier.

The five-year-old marketplace has attracted 628 million active buyers, an increase of 42% year-on-year.

“Despite the outbreak and seasonality, we were able to ship on average 50 million daily orders in March to meet our users’ needs,” said David Liu, Pinduoduo’s vice president for strategy. “As the economy worldwide regains its foothold, we are seeing opportunities for investments and partnerships such as our recent investment in GOME Retail Holdings. Our strong balance sheet allows us to act quickly on such opportunities.”

Contact reporter Han Wei (weihan@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (bobsimison@caixin.com)


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By Ding Yi / May 21, 2020 01:02 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Plant-based meat alternatives have become the latest hot ticket in China.

On the heels of the rollout of a number of foreign-made meat substitutes in the country, Swiss food giant Nestle has announced plans to build its first plant-based food factory in China. The announcement is part of a 100 million Swiss franc ($104 million) investment to strengthen its capability in a country with an estimated 50 million vegetarians and where the spend on protein derived from some vegetarian sources is expected to see double-digit growth.

The Swiss food giant will build the plant in Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA) and is expected to launch its first products by the end of this year, according to a statement released on Wednesday. Nestle didn’t provide more specifics, but the term “plant-based” foods often refers to meat substitutes and other similar products targeted at vegetarians and more broadly at health-conscious consumers.

The announcement comes at a time when some global food and beverage companies are scrambling to launch their plant-based offerings in China, as the country sees some of the highest prices in years for pork, the nation’s favorite meat, partly due to the devastating African swine fever outbreak and the continuing Sino-U.S. trade war.

In April, coffee chain Starbucks unveiled a vegetarian menu featuring beef and pork alternative products from imitation meat makers Beyond Meat and OmniPork for its China locations. Fast-food chain KFC also announced it is trialing its veggie chicken nuggets in the country with U.S. agricultural giant Cargill.

China’s “free from meat” market, which includes fake meat products, is likely to reach $11.9 billion by 2023, CNBC reported, citing statistics from market research firm Euromonitor.

As part of the investment plan, Nestle will also expand the production capacity of its existing Purina PetCare factory in TEDA and will add new production lines to make Veterinary Diet and Wet Cat Food products.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Starbucks in China Debuts Vegetarian Fake Meat Menu


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By Nikkei Asian Review / May 21, 2020 11:15 AM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Chinese technology conglomerate Alibaba Group Holding announced on Wednesday that it will invest 10 billion yuan ($1.41 billion) in the development of artificial intelligence-enabled smart speakers, a move aimed at cementing its leadership in an emerging and fiercely competitive market.

The Hangzhou-based company said the fresh funding will be used to advance its technology development and speed up an ongoing integration between its smart speaker and other business segments. For instance, shoppers can use the Tmall Genie, as Alibaba's smart speaker is called, to watch a livestreaming presentation hosted by the company's e-commerce site Taobao and place an order directly from the device.

Alibaba's announcement comes as the Chinese smart speaker market is already on the rise. Roughly 45.9 million smart speakers were sold in the country in 2019, a 109.7% increase from a year earlier, according to global market intelligence firm IDC.

For now, Alibaba is the industry leader, selling 15.6 million smart speakers in 2019, according to IDC's estimates. But rivals are catching up. Baidu sold 14.9 million smart speakers last year, up 278.5% from the 2018 levels, the same data showed. Meanwhile, the number of smart speakers sold by Chinese smartphone vendor Xiaomi increased by 89.7% to 11.3 million units.

Related: China’s Smart Speaker Shipments Double in 2019, Says IDC


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By Bloomberg / May 20, 2020 09:56 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: Bloomberg

Photo: Bloomberg

Luckin Coffee Inc.’s battered stock faces a renewed wave of selling on Wednesday, after Nasdaq Inc. said it planned to delist the onetime market darling that shocked investors with revelations of accounting fraud last month.

The Chinese coffee chain’s shares, which had been suspended since tumbling more than 80% in early April, fell another 33% premarket Wednesday as trading resumed in New York. Luckin announced Nasdaq’s intention to delist the company in a statement on Tuesday, saying shares will remain on the exchange pending the outcome of an appeal hearing.

The prospect of delisting is likely to trigger a rush for the exit by Luckin’s remaining shareholders, adding to a long list of challenges for the company as it tries to recover from its disclosure that senior executives fabricated about $310 million in sales. Banks including Credit Suisse Group AG, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are among those with money at stake, after the firms seized control of shares that Luckin’s chairman had pledged as collateral for loans.

“I can’t see what else investors would do other than dump the stock,” said Hou Anyang, a fund manager at Frontsea Asset Management Co. in Shenzhen.

Shares fell 33% to $2.94 each at 7:06 a.m. in New York. The stock had reached as high as $51.38 at its peak in January.

A Luckin representative declined to comment on the stock price. The company had a market value of about $1.1 billion based on its closing level April 6. That was poised to dwindle to about $300 million based on premarket trading Wednesday.

While Luckin’s stores are still operating and the company is opening new outlets, its offices in China were raided by authorities last month as part of a multi-agency investigation into its finances. Luckin fired its chief executive officer and other senior leaders last week.

The anticipated selloff in Luckin shares on Wednesday may also spread to other U.S.-listed Chinese companies, though some of those losses could create buying opportunities, said Sun Jianbo, president of Beijing-based China Vision Capital.

“As a Chinese firm which will cease to list on the U.S. market, Luckin will be virtually worthless to American investors,” Sun said. “It’d also be a sentiment shock to other Chinese ADRs, but may create bottom-fishing opportunities for some investors.”

Related: Luckin Explained: How Did Scandal-Plagued Coffee Highflyer Get Into Such Hot Water?

 

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By Ding Yi / May 20, 2020 04:24 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Xpeng has obtained a production license from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) for its new wholly owned plant, making it one of the country’s only electric vehicle startups able to produce independently.

The highly automated plant, officially known as the Zhaoqing Xpeng Motors Intelligent Industrial Park in the city of Zhaoqing in South China’s Guangdong province, will produce the company’s second model, the P7 electric sports sedan, which was launched in April, according to a statement published on Tuesday.

The P7, which is rated by the MIIT as being able to travel 706 kilometers on a single charge, is thought to be a competitor with the much-anticipated long-range version of the Tesla Model 3 sedan. Deliveries of the P7 will begin by the end of June, the company statement said.

Previously, Xpeng said that the Zhaoqing plant aims to make 200,000 cars per year.

The Guangzhou-based carmaker, which also has offices in California, has also been approved by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to perform closed-loop self-driving tests on the P7 in America.

Receipt of the MIIT license comes two months after Xpeng bought lesser-known electric carmaker Guangdong Foday Automobile, which some industry insiders said would play a key role in Xpeng’s efforts to produce cars independently. At the time, Xpeng said that the acquisition would also help it improve its supply chain management and enhance its product development.

Currently, Xpeng’s G3 electric compact sport utility vehicles are manufactured under contract by Haima Automobile, a subsidiary of state-owned automaker FAW Group.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Xpeng Buys Electric Vehicle Firm in Drive to Do Own Manufacturing


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By Ding Yi / May 20, 2020 12:59 PM / Business & Tech

“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (PUBG) Mobile, a battle royale title developed by Chinese internet giant Tencent, retained its position as the world’s highest-earning mobile game in April as demand for digital entertainment increased amid the coronavirus pandemic.

PUBG Mobile and its Chinese mainland version “Peacekeeper Elite” raked in more than $225 million in revenue during the month, representing a year-on-year increase of 241%, according to statistics provided by research firm SensorTower.

People in China were the keenest PUBG Mobile gamers during the period, with 58.8% of the game’s revenue coming from the world’s second-largest economy, followed by the U.S. with 9.6% and Saudi Arabia with 4.9%.

The geographical distribution of user spending for April slightly differs from that in March, when Japan was the third-largest revenue source behind China and the U.S.

Another Tencent title, “Honor of Kings,” was the second highest-grossing game, with revenue of $156 million, approximately 95% of which came from China, followed by Thailand with 2.3%.

Other titles performing well in April included Mixi’s “Monster Strike,” Moon Active’s “Coin Master” and Sony’s “Fate/Grand Order,” with “Roblox” jumping from 10th to third over the month with revenue of $96 million.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Tencent’s PUBG Takes Honors as World’s Top Mobile Game in March


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By Han Wei / May 20, 2020 03:39 AM / Business & Tech

Chinese social media platform Weibo Corp. reported a 19% revenue decline in the first quarter amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite strong growth in new users. The company said a recovery is underway.

Weibo’s revenue for the quarter ended March 31 fell to $323.4 million, reflecting a decline in advertising and marketing affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the company said Tuesday in its earnings report. Net income attributable to Weibo was $52.1 million, compared with $150.4 million a year ago.

In March, Weibo delivered its strongest user growth in terms of net additions of monthly active users (MAUs) and daily active users (DAUs) on a year-over-year basis, said Wang Gaofei, CEO of Weibo.

The platform’s MAUs were 550 million in March, a net addition of 85 million from a year ago. Mobile MAUs represented about 94% of the total. DAUs were 241 million in March, a net increase of 38 million year-on-year.

"We are satisfied with our first-quarter result amid the coronavirus pandemic," Wang said. “We have seen a gradual recovery trend since March for most brands and merchants from the trough in February, although there are still uncertainties brought forth by the pandemic,” Wang said.

Weibo’s parent, leading internet portal provider Sina Corp., also reported first-quarter results Tuesday, with an 8% decline in revenue reflecting a drop in advertising.

Sina’s advertising revenue fell 20% year-over-year to $310.0 million for the quarter ended March 31, while nonadvertising revenue rose 44% to $125.1 million, the Nasdaq-listed company said Tuesday. Net income was $82.4 million, compared with $33.1 million a year ago.

Contact reporter Han Wei (weihan@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (bobsimison@caixin.com)

 

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By Yang Ge / May 19, 2020 04:54 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Forget about Spam — not the email variety, but the canned luncheon meat known for its heavy doses of calories and sodium.

A Hong Kong company called Green Monday has just announced a major expansion to its imitation pork offerings with the rollout of two new products, marking its latest move to tap the world’s largest pork consumer, China. One of those is OminPork Luncheon, modeled on Spam-style luncheon meats. The other is OmniPork Strip, which imitates a shredded form of pork often seen in Chinese dishes.

Both products are made from various combinations of soybeans, wheat, beets and coconut or sunflower seed oil. The company’s original pork product, introduced in 2018, is based on an older formula of soybeans, peas, rice and mushrooms. The new products will be rolled out in Hong Kong first.

Fake meats have been growing in popularity as companies catering to health-conscious consumers use improved technology to perfect their skills at imitating the flavor of meat. The two big companies in the space are Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, both more focused on beef due to their roots in the U.S. But Impossible Foods was eying the China market with its rollout its new Impossible Pork back in January. Beyond Meat made a splash last month when it announced its own official entry to the China market through a tie-up with Starbucks.

Contact reporter Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com)

Related: Imitation-Meat Makers Serve Up China Offerings With Starbucks, KFC and Papa John’s


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By Han Wei / May 19, 2020 06:07 AM / Business & Tech

Chinese online search giant Baidu Inc. reported a 7% year-on-year revenue decline in the first quarter to 22.5 billion yuan ($3.18 billion), reflecting a drop in online marketing revenue amid the pandemic that was partly offset by growth in video streaming arm iQiyi.

Baidu’s revenue from online marketing decreased 19% to 14.2 billion yuan, according to the company’s unaudited financial results released Monday after market closing in the United States. Other revenue grew 28% to 8.3 billion yuan, driven mainly by strong membership growth in iQiyi, cloud services and smart devices, Baidu said.

Baidu posted net income of 41 million yuan, compared with a 327 million yuan loss the same period last year. Baidu’s New York-traded shares closed 7.74% higher Monday. Stock of iQiyi rose 2.12%.

Diversified revenue streams helped Baidu to stay resilient amid the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Robin Li, co-founder and CEO of Baidu.

“With the pandemic coming under control in China, offline activities are rebounding, and Baidu stands to benefit from a restart of the Chinese economy,” Li said.

Revenue from Baidu’s core business declined to 15.3 billion yuan, down 13% from a year ago, while revenue from iQiyi climbed to 7.6 billion yuan, up 9%. IQiyi’s membership revenue grew 35% year over year, but was offset by a 27% drop in online advertising revenue, according to the report.

IQiyi had 118.9 million subscribing members as of March 31, 99.2% of whom were paid members. The number of subscribing members rose 23% year over year, the video streaming unit said in a separate statement. IQiyi’s net loss widened to 2.9 billion yuan in the first quarter from 1.8 billion yuan a year ago,

For the second quarter of 2020, Baidu expects revenue to be between 25 billion yuan and 27.3 billion yuan, representing a decline of as much as 5% to a gain of as much as 4% year over year, the company said.

Contact reporter Han Wei (weihan@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (bobsimison@caixin.com)


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By Ding Yi / May 18, 2020 06:07 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese internet company Sohu.com, which has been outshone by much younger peers in recent years, reported modest growth in revenues, but a net loss in the first quarter of 2020.

For the three months through March, Sohu recorded $436 million in revenues, up 6% year-on-year, according to its latest earnings report released Monday. Digging a little deeper into the headline figures, the company’s online game revenue rose 35% during the quarter to $133 million, while search and search-related advertising revenue was also up 1% to $238 million.

During the January-March period, the coronavirus pandemic resulted in people being stuck at home and spending more time on online games and consuming more digital content.

Despite the top-line growth, Sohu.com still reported a net loss of $20 million, although this is still less than the $54 million loss the company made a year earlier over the same period.

On the same day, Sohu’s search engine subsidiary Sogou also released its first-quarter earnings report, showing the company’s net loss expanded to $31.6 million from $3.9 million in the same quarter last year. Sogou’s quarterly revenue was up 2% year-on-year to $257.3 million.

Sohu chairman and CEO Charles Zhang said in a statement that any profits made by the gaming company Changyou.com, which became a privately held, wholly-owned subsidiary of Sohu’s in April after delisting from the Nasdaq, will be attributed to Sohu.

Changyou, which runs the popular multiplayer online role-playing game “Tian Long Ba Bu,” began as a business unit of Sohu in 2003 and was later spun off in a Nasdaq IPO in 2009.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Sohu to Take Nasdaq-Listed Gaming Firm Changyou Private


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By Ding Yi / May 18, 2020 05:55 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Alibaba founder Jack Ma will step down from SoftBank’s board of directors on June 25, the latest move by the Chinese billionaire to pull back from his business roles to focus on philanthropy, according to a company statement released on Monday. The news comes on the same day that one of the Japanese tech investor’s largest funds recorded a massive operating loss due to poorly performing investments.

The statement did not provide a reason behind Ma’s departure from the Japanese tech conglomerate, which is one of Alibaba’s major shareholders.

Ma, who joined SoftBank’s board in 2007, has close business relations with SoftBank chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son, whose investment in Ma’s newly born company in 2000 is widely seen as one of the world’s most successful deals. Currently, Alibaba, which was founded in 1999, has grown into China’s most valuable e-commerce company with a market capitalization of $544.9 billion.

In September last year, Ma retired as chairman from Alibaba and handed the title over to Daniel Zhang, the company’s former COO. Ma left the CEO position in 2013 and was succeeded by Jonathan Lu, who was later replaced by Zhang in 2015.

SoftBank also named three new directors including SoftBank CFO Yoshimitsu Goto, Yuko Kawamoto, a professor from Waseda Business School, and Lip-Bu Tan, founder and chairman of venture capital firm Walden International, according to the statement.

SoftBank said that it is buying back its own shares worth up to 500 billion yen ($4.7 billion) as part of its 4.5 trillion yen asset sale program announced in March, the company said in another statement published on Monday.

Monday also saw Softbank report an annual operating loss of 1.9 trillion yen ($18 billion) at its Vision Fund that invests primarily in tech startups such as WeWork and ride hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc. The fund’s losses meant the company as a whole recorded a 1.4 trillion yen loss in the year ended March.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Alibaba-Backed Online Bank Lends to Over 20 Million Small and Micro Firms


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