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By Ding Yi / Jul 27, 2021 07:11 PM / Business & Tech

Chinese smartphone-maker Vivo and Shanghai-based delivery company Dada Group have reached an agreement that will enable Vivo phones sold on the latter’s online grocery platform JDDJ to be delivered within an hour of being ordered.

As part of an agreement announced Monday, Dada’s intracity courier arm Dada Now will be responsible for providing one-hour delivery service for 500 Vivo authorized stores scattered across 13 provinces in China.

The agreement will also see JDDJ, which Dada acquired from e-commerce giant JD.com in 2016, partner with the 500 stores on digital marketing and target-user operations. The first Vivo authorized store started doing business on JDDJ in June 2020, according to Dada.

A Dada representative told Caixin that the company has developed a recommendation system that uses big data and algorithms to provide interested users with products, thus helping vendors selling goods on JDDJ boost sales.

The announcement comes after Vivo became China’s largest smartphone brand in the first quarter of 2021, with a market share of 23%, according to Canalys.

Related: Delivery Platform Dada Losses Swell Despite Healthy Revenue Growth

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By Ding Yi / Jul 27, 2021 05:06 PM / Business & Tech

Nanjing Semidrive Technology, a Chinese startup that develops smart car microchips, has raised nearly 1 billion yuan ($154 million) in a series B funding round as a global shortage of semiconductors has forced carmakers to scale back production.

Co-led by CDB Equipment Manufacturing Funds and V Fund, the new round attracted several other investors including BOC International, Matrix Partners China and CTC Capital, Semidrive said in a statement Monday.

Since its inception in 2018, Semidrive has developed three car chips — for smart cockpits, advanced driver-assistance systems and central gateways, according to its website. A central gateway is used to interconnect and transfer data across different electronic systems in a vehicle. Mass production of the three chips is expected to commence by the end of this year, according to CEO Qiu Yuqing.

The company said that the fresh capital will be used to boost R&D of more advanced car chips, which could help accelerate the commercial application of autonomous vehicles, according to company Chairman Zhang Qiang.

At the World Artificial Intelligence Conference held earlier this month, Semidrive, which has R&D centers in Shanghai and Beijing, launched its self-developed UniDrive self-driving platform, which it said features strong compatibility enabling different developers to improve their own autonomous driving technologies. At the conference, the company also unveiled plans to develop a new car chip in 2023 that can support robotaxis featuring Level 4 self-driving capabilities.

U.S. engineering standards group SAE International classifies autonomous driving from Level 0 to Level 5, with Level 4 referring to features that enable a vehicle to drive itself under most circumstances with no human intervention.

Related: Vehicle Vision Startup CalmCar Completes $150 Million Funding Round

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By Ding Yi / Jul 27, 2021 04:09 PM / Business & Tech

Tencent’s desire for dealmaking waned in the second quarter of this year, when China’s market regulator fined the tech giant as part of an antitrust clampdown on the country’s big tech and internet companies.

The Shenzhen-based company finalized 55 investments in the second quarter, about half the number of the 108 deals it completed in the previous three months, according to a report released Monday by Chinese corporate information provider Qichacha.

In total, the social media and gaming titan participated in 163 investment deals worth 93.1 billion yuan ($14.4 billion) in the first half, the report said. The investments were in industries ranging from entertainment and enterprise services to finance and education, but nearly one-third were associated with the video game industry, reflecting Tencent’s growing bet on a business that it counts as one of its biggest revenue generators.

Over the past several months, Beijing has moved to curb the sprawling expansion of the country’s once loosely regulated tech and internet giants in a sweeping antitrust crackdown aimed at bringing several grey areas of their businesses under its regulatory purview.

In April, Tencent was fined 1 million yuan by China’s State Administration of Market Regulation for not reporting two share acquisitions it had made without advance permission from regulators.

Related: China Watchdog Rejects Tencent-Led Game Streaming Deal

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By Ding Yi / Jul 26, 2021 07:29 PM / Business & Tech

E-commerce giant Alibaba founder Jack Ma took the top spot on the 2021 Forbes China Philanthropy List, showing the consistency of the entrepreneur’s generosity despite his empire being under strict government scrutiny for its business practices.

The Forbes list, published last week, measures cash given by 100 Chinese entrepreneurs and their businesses in 2020.

Last year, Ma and Alibaba offered combined cash donations of 3.2 billion yuan ($493.6 million), according to Forbes.

Ma has focused more on philanthropy and education since he stepped down as Alibaba chairman in 2019. He has made few public appearances since last October when he delivered a controversial speech in Shanghai on China’s financial system, which was widely considered a trigger for Beijing’s subsequent move to suspend the Shanghai and Hong Kong IPOs of Ant Group, Ma’s fintech company that runs Alipay.

Pony Ma and his internet company Tencent ranked third on the list with 2.6 billion yuan of cash donations, while Zhang Yiming and his tech unicorn ByteDance came in fifth, donating 1.2 billion yuan. Eminent Chinese tech CEOs including Ding Lei of NetEase, Wang Xing of Meituan, Richard Liu of JD.com and Lei Jun of Xiaomi also made it onto the Forbes list.

Overall, the 100 Chinese entrepreneurs on the list donated a total of 24.5 billion yuan in 2020, up from 17.9 billion yuan in 2019, with internet companies accounting for the largest share of charitable-giving in China, with cash donations of 7.8 billion yuan for the year. The increase in part reflects how resilient the country’s internet industry has been in a year in which the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred demand for online services.

In recent years, many Chinese tech and internet companies have increased donations in an effort to fulfill their corporate social responsibilities as Beijing urges enterprises not to make profitability their only priority. Over the past week, nearly all the big names in Chinese tech have offered to donate money to flood-battered Henan province in Central China.

Related: Alibaba Targets Fresh Graduates to Stay Competitive in Tech Market

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By Ding Yi / Jul 26, 2021 06:04 PM / Business & Tech

CalmCar, a Tianjin-based startup that specializes in developing vision systems for autonomous vehicles, has raised $150 million in a series C funding round led by German auto-parts maker ZF Friedrichshafen AG as the Chinese company aims to begin its IPO process by 2022.

The round attracted several other investors including Dragonstone Capital Management, Great Filter Venture, OCI International and Vietnam-based automaker VinFast, CalmCar said in a statement last week.

The new funds will be used to expand the mass production of its software and hardware products used in Level 2 to Level 4 self-driving vehicles, according to the statement.

Level 4 technology is what most self-driving car companies are focusing on developing, being the standard that U.S. engineering standards group SAE International identifies as features that allow a vehicle to drive itself under certain conditions but only if all those conditions are met. Level 5 is the highest attainable level of automation according to SAE.

Founded in 2016, CalmCar uses artificial intelligence to develop machine vision systems for use in areas like autonomous driving, robotics, smart transportation and public security. Its two flagship products are a 360-degree sensor system to detect moving objects, traffic lights and lane lines around a car, and a monitoring system that sounds an alert when a driver shows signs of fatigue, makes a phone call or smokes.

CalmCar said that it has R&D facilities in Tianjin, Beijing and Detroit, staffed by a team of more than 150 engineers in total.

In June, CalmCar signed a deal with ZF to jointly develop budget automated parking assistance and automated valet parking systems that they expect to install in cars on a large scale in China next year. ZF has also teamed up with TuSimple, a self-driving truck-maker that focuses on the China and U.S. markets, to develop a central computing platform for driverless rigs.

Related: DeepRoute.ai Self-Driving Taxis Hit Shenzhen Roads

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By Ding Yi / Jul 23, 2021 08:14 PM / Business & Tech

Cloudwise, a Beijing-based company that develops artificial intelligence for IT operations platforms, has raised $150 million in a series E funding round led by Sequoia Capital China.

Such platforms use big data, AI algorithms and other analytics technologies to enhance the efficiency of operations like monitoring, automation and service desks.

The round attracted several other investors including FutureX Capital, SIG China and Citic Private Equity Funds Management, Cloudwise said in a statement Thursday.

The company said that it will use the fresh capital to support R&D for its platforms for customers in more industries, as well as the improvement of its service systems.

The company also said that China’s ongoing efforts to accelerate a digital transformation that aims to enhance productivity and spur economic growth will give a boost to its business.

In 2020, the digital economy accounted for nearly 40% of China’s GDP, according to a white paper published in April by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a think tank affiliated with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Cloudwise has customers in industries including banking, insurance, manufacturing, energy, aviation and real estate, according to its website.

The value of the global market for artificial intelligence for IT operations is expected to grow to $11.02 billion by 2023, up from $1.73 billion in 2017, according to MarketsandMarkets.

Related: Weekend Long Read: Five Ways AI Will Put China Ahead

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By Ding Yi / Jul 23, 2021 06:25 PM / Business & Tech

Chinese electric-car maker Nio has started shipping the first batch of its flagship ES8 SUVs from Shanghai to Norway, in a move to carve out territory in a country seen as the gateway to Europe.

Deliveries are expected to commence in September in Norway, Nio’s first overseas market, the company said in a statement on Thursday. In June, Nio gained Whole Vehicle Type Approval for the ES8, an official permit that allows the car to be sold across all EU countries.

The Shanghai-based company did not disclose how many ES8s are initially being shipped.

Nio has established a taskforce of 200 Norwegians to solicit opinions on how to make a car that caters to local tastes, according to the statement.

Earlier this month, U.S.-listed Nio obtained two certificates from TÜV Rheinland for its power swap stations and charging equipment, meaning it is qualified to provide power swapping and charging services in the EU.

Nio’s push into Norway comes as the company has maintained high sales growth for several quarters in China. In the second quarter, Nio delivered 21,896 units, more than double the number in the same period of last year.

However fellow electric-car maker Xpeng has stolen a march on Nio in expanding into Europe. In December, the Guangzhou-based startup began handing over the first 100 G3 electric SUVs to customers from 28 Norwegian cities and towns.

Related: EU-Recognized Certificates Pave the Way for Nio’s European Expansion

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By Ding Yi / Jul 23, 2021 02:46 PM / Business & Tech

Xiaomi’s pole position in India’s smartphone market remained unassailable in the second quarter as nearly a third of the country’s smartphone sales went to the Chinese electronics giant.

In the three months through June, Xiaomi shipped 9.5 million smartphones in the country, up 77% year-on-year, giving it a market share of 29%, according to Canalys.

Canalys analyst Jash Shah linked Xiaomi’s performance to growth in its online sales, which received a boost from the budget Redmi Note 10 series.

Xiaomi has also set its sights on other parts of the world. The company recently overtook Apple for the first time to become the world’s second-largest smartphone brand in the second quarter, with shipments rising 300%, 150% and 50% year-on-year in Latin America, Africa and Western Europe respectively.

Samsung narrowly held on to second place, controlling 17% of the Indian market by shipping 5.5 million smartphones in the second quarter, a little more than third-placed Vivo, which shipped 5.4 million smartphones.

Realme and Oppo took fourth and fifth spot respectively with market shares of 15% and 12%. Of the top five, Realme experienced the highest year-on-year shipment growth of 181%.

Overall, smartphone-makers shipped a total of 32.4 million devices in India between April and June, an increase of 87% compared with the same period of last year, when a countrywide coronavirus-induced lockdown was imposed. However, that represents a 13% drop from the previous quarter, which Canalys attributed to the second wave of coronavirus infections that stifled demand in the quarter.

Related: Closing In on Samsung, Xiaomi Dethrones Apple to Become World’s No. 2 Smartphone Seller

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By Ding Yi / Jul 22, 2021 07:00 PM / Business & Tech

Alibaba is launching what it calls its biggest ever recruiting program for fresh graduates, as the battle for young talent intensifies in China’s tech landscape despite Beijing’s tightening oversight of the sector.

The Jack Ma-founded giant is offering 113 positions at Alibaba Group and its affiliates, including Ant Group, Cainiao, Alibaba Health Information Technology and Alibaba Pictures. About 45 of the jobs are available to new graduates for the first time, according to a statement on Monday.

The positions, based in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Nanjing and Chengdu, will be shared in technology-related and non-technology categories. These involve fields ranging from machine learning, autonomous driving and chip design to product operation, video editing and visual design.

The statement did not disclose how many new graduates Alibaba plans to hire to fill the vacancies.

The number of university graduates in China hit 9 million in 2021, an increase of 350,000 over 2020, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said in June.

Alibaba’s hiring plan comes as many Chinese tech companies have increased their payroll costs to introduce new blood and retain excellent employees.

In March, TikTok owner ByteDance embarked on a hiring spree for its new education division, with plans to hire some 10,000 employees to fill China-based vacancies in teaching, product management and community management in four months.

Earlier this month, JD.com, a major rival of Alibaba, promised to increase the average employee annual salary to the equivalent of 16-months pay by July 2023 from the current 14-month model.

Related: Tesla Launches Hiring Spree in China as It Prepares for Shanghai Production of Model Y

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By Ding Yi / Jul 22, 2021 05:51 PM / Business & Tech

Foxconn came under the spotlight in January thanks to its partnership with Volvo Cars owner Geely with regards to electric vehicle manufacturing. Since then, the iPhone assembler has done more to get involved in the industry’s supply chain.

On Wednesday, Japanese motor-maker Nidec said that it is in talks with Foxconn and its automobile arm Foxtron Vehicle Technologies to create a joint venture to make traction motor systems for electric vehicles.

The three parties will “conduct feasibility studies and contract negotiations” with the aim of reaching an agreement by the end of this year to form the joint venture by 2022, Nidec said in statement on Wednesday.

The venture would focus on developing, producing and selling traction motor systems, a core component used to propel a vehicle, according to the statement, adding that details about the venture have yet to be decided and are subject to change as discussions progress.

In May, Foxconn announced it was working with automakers Fisker and Stellantis to push deeper into the car manufacturing. The partnership with Fisker focuses on the development of an affordable electric vehicle, while the deal with Stellantis involves R&D for intelligent control technologies for connected cars.

Related: Foxconn to Set Up Chipmaking Joint Venture with Yageo

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By Ding Yi / Jul 22, 2021 04:59 PM / Business & Tech

Volvo Cars has signed a deal with its parent Zhejiang Geely Holding Group to buy out the latter’s shares in their joint ventures in China to take full control of its manufacturing and sales in the world’s largest auto market as Beijing opens up more industries to foreign investors.

The agreement, which is awaiting the approval of China’s regulators, will see Volvo Cars acquire Geely Holding’s 50% stake in Daqing Volvo Car Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and Shanghai Volvo Car Research and Development Co. Ltd., according to a joint statement released on Wednesday.

The two transactions, for which financial details were not disclosed, will give the Swedish carmaker full ownership of its production plants in Chengdu and Daqing, its Chinese sales company and its R&D facility in Shanghai, the statement said.

Holding full ownership means Volvo Cars could prevent its technologies from being shared with local partners, and grants it the right to pocket all benefits earned in the Chinese market, where the company sold 166,617 cars in 2020, a year-on-year increase of 7.5%.

Volvo Cars said the transactions will start in 2022, when the Chinese government will remove the restriction on foreign ownership in joint ventures producing passenger vehicles. The transactions are expected to be formally completed in 2023.

From 1994, Beijing followed an industry policy requiring foreign carmakers to set up joint ventures with local partners before making cars in China. This lasted until 2018 when the rule was partially eased with the lifting of the cap on foreign ownership in joint ventures producing new energy vehicles.

In 2020, Beijing removed the foreign ownership restriction on commercial vehicle manufacturing.

Wednesday’s announcement comes more than a week after Volvo Cars announced plans to increase its stake in Geely-backed Swedish electric-vehicle maker Polestar to 49.5% by acquiring the additional shares from PSD Investment, the private investment company of Li Shufu, chairman of both Volvo Cars and Geely Holding.

Related: Geely-Owned Volvo Mulls Going Public This Year

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By Ding Yi / Jul 21, 2021 06:36 PM / Business & Tech

Guangdong-based venture capital firm Sherpa Healthcare Partners has closed its dollar-denominated Fund II focusing on early- to growth-stage investment in China’s medical industry, the company said on Tuesday, riding the wave of a financing frenzy among the country’s medical technology startups.

The fund will mainly provide financial support to China-based companies engaged in biotech research, biomedicine development, medical equipment manufacturing, medical diagnostics and medical services.

Sherpa did not disclose how much money it raised for the fund, but said that it was oversubscribed by investors including public pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, and asset management companies.

Last month, London-headquartered venture capital firm Eight Roads Ventures, an early investor in Alibaba, announced the launch of a $400 million fund to focus on early-stage investment in China-based medtech and life science companies.

Related: Alibaba to Lead $257 Million Fund to Support Tech Startups in China’s Greater Bay Area

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By Ding Yi / Jul 21, 2021 05:33 PM / Business & Tech

The growing use of smart machinery to perform tedious and repetitive tasks traditionally done by human workers has created tremendous opportunities for robot-makers to attract venture capital. XYZ Robotics is the latest beneficiary of this trend.

On Monday, the Shanghai-based startup, which specializes in robotic hand-eye coordination technology, announced that it had raised $35 million in a series B funding round courtesy of multiple investors including Gaorong Capital, 5Y Capital and Source Code Capital.

The company said that it plans to use the fresh capital to boost its R&D capabilities and expand its sales and delivery systems.

Founded in 2018, XYZ Robotics develops a robotic pick-and-place system powered by its 3D computer vision and movement control algorithms, with the system able to pick 1,800 pieces per hour at peak efficiency, according to its website.

The startup said that the buyers of its technology are mainly from the e-commerce, logistics, consumer goods, everyday chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

Gaorong Capital, 5Y Capital and Source Code Capital are active investors in China’s tech startups involved in artificial intelligence, mobile operating systems, communications satellites, chatbots and microchips.

Related: Rehab Robot Specialist Fourier Completes Saudi-Led Funding Round

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By Ding Yi / Jul 21, 2021 03:48 PM / Society & Culture

Chinese autonomous vehicle companies have been racing to offer their own robotaxi services in the country’s big cities in preparation for a future in which public transport systems may adopt driverless cabs as standard. The latest to do so is a Shenzhen-based startup founded just two years ago.

DeepRoute.ai launched its robotaxi service in Shenzhen on Monday, becoming one of the first companies to carry passengers in autonomous vehicles in the city, although human backup drivers are there just in case, according to a company statement.

Currently, a fleet of 20 robotaxis has been deployed in the central business district of Shenzhen, where more than 100 pick-up and drop-off points have been established. The service is now only available for free to passengers over 18 years old, who are required to apply for an invitation code through DeepRoute.ai’s official WeChat account before booking a ride.

“We have tested our self-driving vehicles in Shenzhen for more than two years,” said DeepRoute.ai Vice President Liu Xuan. “We are excited to launch this program and look forward to gradually increasing the number of vehicles available and operation zones covered.”

The launch comes three months after DeepRoute.ai obtained what it called the first permit to trial its robotaxi service in Shenzhen, where lawmakers are reviewing a draft regulation on managing intelligent and connected vehicles.

On Saturday, Baidu expanded its Apollo Go robotaxi service to Guangzhou, allowing users to take autonomous rides in a designated area that contains more than 200 pick-up and drop-off spots. Last week, the city’s government announced the launch of a pilot project that will allow the coexistence of self-driving cars and human-driven vehicles on public roads, paving the way for the large-scale use of driverless vehicles in the city.

Related: Baidu Expands Robotaxi Pilot Program to Guangzhou

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By Heather Mowbray / Jul 20, 2021 08:43 PM / Society & Culture

What’s trending?

Canadian pop star Kris Wu, 30, has been accused by 19-year-old Du Meizhu of raping her two years ago and sleeping with several other underage girls. That’s according to an interview she gave to NetEase, a Chinese news site, Sunday.

Millions of Weibo readers who have been following the story known as #吴亦凡事件# agree that their own part in the story involves little more than “eating melons,” which means watching things unfold from the sidelines.

What’s the story?

In the interview on Sunday and her previous posts, student and online celebrity Du said the singer Wu had date-raped her when she was 17, and had sex with seven or more other young girls, at least two of whom were under the age of 18, after plying some of them with alcohol.

Wu, who gained fame from acting, modeling and singing in China since leaving Korean boy band EXO in 2014, said on social media, “I only met Miss Du once at a friend’s gathering … I have never ‘coerced women into sex.’”

On July 19, Wu’s studio issued an official statement on Weibo, saying that the revelations were fabricated and that police were investigating the matter.

Despite denying the allegations, more than 10 associated brands have dropped collaborations with the singer, pending the police inquiry. Domestic skincare brand Kans, music streaming platform Yunting, and household detergent-maker Libai have formally severed ties with the celebrity.

Wu holds Canadian citizenship and grew up between Vancouver and Guangzhou. It is not the first time he has been accused online of taking sexual advantage of female fans.

Southern Weekend, a Chinese newspaper, wrote Monday, “This is no longer simply an entertainment circle ‘melon,’ but a public incident that possibly involves a crime. Police should actively intervene in the investigation. If the allegations are true, Wu should be held criminally liable. If not true, the blogger who broke the news is deemed to be spreading rumors, a criminal offense.

China’s MeToo movement sparked by feminist activists in 2018 has been low-key on Chinese social media due in part to a legal system that makes such cases hard to pursue. In particular, cases brought to justice must meet a high evidence threshold in China’s court system, which is harder to gather in cases of sexual assault.

What are people saying online?

A number of commentors on the original story have taken the accusations at face value and decided that Wu is guilty and that his foreign status is at the root of it, telling the singer he should “roll out of China,” a comment that sounds far ruder in Chinese than in English.

Others took a swipe at male entertainers in general. “Sexual assault cases are hard to back with evidence, but does that mean he’s innocent? Do male artists not also need a moral bottom line?”

Taking a different moral stance, one person, ignorant of celebrity culture, wondered why young girls were out with pop stars anyway, “Don’t these girls have to go to school?”

Another popular comment reads, “We aren’t standing in line looking at this rationally. (If we were, we’d see) lots of holes in the story.”

And these are gaps that commentors seem ready and willing to fill themselves. Examples include, “Who is behind [accuser] Du Mizhu? What kind of team does she have?” and “The mainstream media is silent while brands abandon Wu left right and center. This must be about capital.”

One Weibo user thinks, “It has to be about the Olympics. Every time an Olympic event comes around, stories like this surface. Last time, it was Wang Baoqiang’s divorce that we were all munching on like ‘melons.’”

That story had over 5 billion likes on Weibo in the summer of 2016.

Related: Trending in China: High Hopes for Sex Education in Schools

Related: Trending in China: Didi Chuxing Falsely Implicated in Staged ‘Sexual Assault’

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By Ding Yi / Jul 20, 2021 07:06 PM / Business & Tech

A pair of Tencent titles took the top two spots in the ranking of the world’s highest-earning mobile games for June, as the Chinese tech giant invests heavily in the business that makes up much of its revenue.

Last month, Honor of Kings, a multiplayer role-playing battle game developed by Tencent’s Timi Studio, pocketed $277 million in revenue, up 21% year-on-year, maintaining its status as the world’s highest-grossing mobile game for four consecutive months, according to SensorTower.

The Chinese mainland was the largest revenue source for Honor of Kings, contributing approximately 95.6% of the game’s June revenue, followed by Taiwan and Thailand with 2% and 1.2% respectively.

PUBG Mobile, a battle royale mobile game developed by Tencent’s Lightspeed & Quantum Studio, claimed the second spot with revenue of $213.8 million, about 53.3% of which came from the mainland, followed by the U.S. with 11.2%.

In June, the combined revenue generated by the world’s 10 highest-earning mobiles games amounted to $1.4 billion, meaning that Honor of Kings and PUBG Mobile accounted for about 35%.

In recent years, Tencent has redoubled efforts to snap up game studios to take on rivals from home and abroad. On Monday, Bloomberg reported that the Shenzhen-based company, which already has stakes in giants such as Riot Games and Epic Games, has agreed to buy the 91.25% of British videogame developer Sumo Group that it does not already own.

Related: Tencent Agrees to Buy British Game Maker Sumo Group

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By Ding Yi / Jul 20, 2021 05:27 PM / Business & Tech

Baidu has launched its Apollo Go robotaxi service in Guangzhou, taking a step closer to its goal of expanding the service to 30 Chinese cities within the next three years.

The service in Guangzhou Science City, a science and technology park located in Guangzhou’s Huangpu district, operates on predetermined routes that take its robotaxis past schools, hospitals, parks, hotels and office buildings, with more than 200 designated spots where the vehicles can pick up and drop off passengers, Baidu said in a statement Monday.

Passengers can book free rides on the autonomous service through the Baidu Maps and Apollo Go apps between 9:30 a.m. and 11 p.m. every day, according to the statement. Safety drivers are still needed to sit in the cars to take control in case of an emergency.

Apart from Guangzhou, Baidu also operates the service in the cities of Changsha, Cangzhou and Beijing. Guangzhou is a hot test ground for autonomous driving as Pony.ai and WeRide are also trialing their robotaxi programs there.

The launch is an extension of a partnership that Baidu and the Huangpu district government forged in February, when the company was allowed to operate a fleet of five types of autonomous vehicles used for applications including passenger transportation between selected destinations, street cleaning and mobile retailing.

By the end of 2020, Baidu said that it had ferried more than 210,000 passengers using its autonomous cars with plans to deploy over 3,000 robotaxis in 30 Chinese cities within the next three years.

Related: Baidu and ON Semiconductor Team Up With Eye on Image Sensors for Self-Driving Cars

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By Ding Yi / Jul 20, 2021 05:15 PM / Business & Tech

Guangzhou-based startup WeRide has acquired 3-year-old Chinese self-driving truck firm MoonX.AI, reflecting its interest in autonomous trucking as an increasing number of companies look for ways to apply their self-driving tech to the long-distance logistics industry.

The deal will see MoonX.AI founder and CEO Yang Qingxiong join WeRide as the company’s vice president and head of research, WeRide said in a statement Tuesday. WeRide will also take on Yang’s team of about 50 algorithm and R&D engineers.

The new role will enable Yang, a computer vision expert who earned his doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2010, to oversee the R&D and application of WeRide’s autonomous driving technology. Yang will also take the helm of WeRide’s Shenzhen branch.

The acquisition comes at a time when some Chinese robotaxi service providers are coming to the conclusion that trucks, rather than passenger cars, are the low-hanging fruit in the quest to turn self-driving technology into a profitable business. That’s because trucks tend to operate in a less complex driving environments such as on highways.

One example is Pony.ai, which in May obtained a license to conduct autonomous freight operations in the southern Chinese megacity of Guangzhou. The company, which splits its operations between China and the U.S., also runs robotaxi services in Shanghai and Beijing, as well as the cities of Irvine and Fremont in California.

Related: Nissan-Backed Chinese Self-Driving Startup WeRide Raises $310 Million

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By Ding Yi / Jul 19, 2021 08:00 PM / Business & Tech

Ant Group-backed digital payments company Paytm is planning to raise as much as 166 billion rupees ($2.2 billion) in a Mumbai IPO, according to a prospectus filed on Friday.

The Delhi-based company, which counts Alibaba-affiliated Ant Group as its biggest financial supporter, said that it will issue new shares worth 83 billion rupees and offer for sale shares worth another 83 billion rupees held by existing shareholders.

Aside from general corporate purposes, proceeds from the IPO will go towards expanding its payment network and investing in new business initiatives, acquisitions and partnerships, according to the prospectus.

Since its inception in 2009, Paytm has evolved into a payment gateway, e-commerce marketplace and ticketing platform. As of March 31, the platform had more than 333 million users and served over 21 million merchants, according to its prospectus.

Related: Cross-Border Digital Payments Trial to Start by Year-End

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com) and editor Heather Mowbray (heathermowbray@caixin.com)

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By Ding Yi / Jul 19, 2021 06:35 PM / Business & Tech

Chinese unmanned delivery vehicle startup White Rhino has raised nearly $10 million in its pre-series A funding round led by Linear Capital, as the firm has commercialized its technology in Shanghai.

Founded in 2019 in Beijing by Zhu Lei and Xia Tian, former members of Baidu’s autonomous driving team, White Rhino uses its autonomous vehicles for bulk grocery deliveries as such services are under less time pressure than takeout food delivery services and are sometimes too heavy for human couriers to transport.

Since September 2020, White Rhino has been using its autonomous delivery vehicles to transport grocery orders placed online for a Yonghui supermarket in Shanghai’s Jiading district, which is well-known for its welcoming attitude toward robotaxis. The service covers 14 residential communities near the supermarket, with each order delivered in 37 minutes on average. Supermarket employees are however needed to load the groceries into the vehicles.

White Rhino’s autonomous delivery vehicles offer additional logistics support to supermarkets during busy periods like the Lunar New Year and National Day holidays when delivery personnel cost more than usual and delays often occur, according to Wang Hanji, the company’s marketing manager.

Meituan, a Chinese lifestyle service and food delivery giant, has also been investing in unmanned delivery services. Earlier this month, the company unveiled plans to trial a drone-enabled autonomous delivery network in Shanghai.

Related: Meituan to Trial Delivery by Drone in Shanghai

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com) and editor Heather Mowbray (heathermowbray@caixin.com)

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