By Kane Wu and Julie Zhu
HONGKONG (Reuters) – Alibaba Group’s newly formed on-demand online services unit has rocketed in value to as much as $30 billion after raising $4 billion (3.05 billion pounds) in fresh funds, people with knowledge of the situation told Reuters.
Alibaba combined the operation of food delivery service Ele.me and online restaurant guide business Koubei under a single management team and holding vehicle in October. It announced a fundraising plan for the vehicle in August.
In a deal in April where Alibaba bought the shares it did not already own, Ele.me was valued at $9.5 billion. Koubei was worth $8 billion at the end of last year, according to a list of unicorns published in March by a unit under China’s science and technology ministry.
More than $3 billion of the new funds came from Alibaba itself and SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the people said. Primavera Capital Group and Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, which have already invested in Koubei, also joined in the fundraising, they said. The company expects to close this financing round by the end of November, one source added.
Alibaba, SoftBank and Ant Financial declined to comment. Primavera did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The people declined to be named because the information is confidential.
Alibaba said in August it had received commitments of more than $3 billion from investors including itself and SoftBank.
The fresh capital will give the unit ammunition in its intensifying battle with rival Meituan Dianping, backed by Tencent Holdings, for dominance of China’s booming online-to-offline (O2O) market where apps link smartphone users with bricks-and-mortar businesses to provide food delivery and other offerings.
Meituan Dianping in September raised $4.2 billion in the world’s biggest internet-focused initial public offering in four years, after pricing it near the top end of a marketed range at HK$69 per share.
However its shares are down 9 percent since its Sept. 20 debut, giving it a current market cap of $44 billion.
Meituan said in its half-year report that the number of its annual active users from the 12 months ending June 30 grew 30 percent to 357 million from the same period a year ago. The number of merchants active in the past year grew 52 percent to 5.1 million for the same period.
In comparison, Ele.me served over 167 million active consumers in 676 cities in China for the 12 months ended June 30, Alibaba said in its latest quarterly report. Together, Ele.me and Koubei served 3.5 million registered merchants as of June 30.
Before the April deal, the e-commerce giant and Ant Financial owned a 43 stake in the business, whose name roughly translates to “Hungry?”. Ele.me also runs Baidu Inc’s former food delivery business, which it acquired a year ago.
Koubei was founded in 2015 as a 50-50 joint venture of Alibaba and Ant Financial. Silver Lake, CDH Investments, Yunfeng Capital, which is backed by Alibaba founder Jack Ma, and Primavera Capital joined as investors in a January 2017 funding round.
(Reporting by Kane Wu and Julie Zhu; Editing by Stephen Coates)