Mon, Apr 14, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Alibaba set to buy AutoNavi mapping firm ahead of IPO

PLOTTING A COURSE:The deal values China’s most popular mapping service at US$1.5 billion and boosts Alibaba’s push for users and market share

Bloomberg

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴) agreed to acquire AutoNavi Holdings Ltd (高德地圖) in a deal that values the Chinese company at US$1.5 billion, bolstering its Internet mapping tools ahead of a possible initial public offering (IPO).

AutoNavi shareholders will receive US$21 in cash for each American depositary receipt, the companies said on Friday in a statement, the same terms that Alibaba originally offered in February.

The bid is a 27 percent premium to AutoNavi’s closing price on Feb. 7, before the offer was first disclosed.

AutoNavi will give Alibaba control of China’s most popular mobile mapping service as the nation’s largest e-commerce company prepares for an IPO in New York as soon as this month.

Alibaba is trying to win a big portion of China’s 618 million Internet users with more services, and AutoNavi lets it compete directly with Baidu Inc’s (百度) Baidu Maps and with Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊) for taxi and restaurant recommendation services.

With its looming IPO, Alibaba is moving rapidly to bolster its reach with investments in China and abroad.

Earlier this month, the company was part of a US$250 million funding round for ride-sharing application Lyft Inc and last month Alibaba said it would invest almost US$700 million in Intime Retail Group Co (銀泰集團), owner of department stores and supermarkets.

Beijing-based AutoNavi, which is already 28 percent owned by Alibaba, has digital-map databases covering about 3.6 million kilometers of roads and more than 20 million “points of interest” across China. The deal is expected to be completed in the third quarter.

AutoNavi shareholders still need to vote on the takeover.

Mapping is becoming a vital battleground for the largest technology providers in the world with companies such as Google Inc and Apple Inc stepping up investments. Last year, Google acquired Waze, which help users navigate traffic with smartphones, for almost US$1 billion.

Apple, a newer player to the market, has made several acquisitions to improve its services, including deals for Locationary, HopStop and Embark.

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