​Alibaba joins $600m Chinese taxi app funding round

Alibaba Group has joined SoftBank Group and Tiger Global in a $600 million funding round for Travice Inc, the Chinese operator of taxi app Kuaidi Dache.

Alibaba Group has plugged some of its post-IPO cash pile into Travice Inc, operator of Chinese mobile taxi booking app Kuaidi Dache, with the e-commerce leviathan joining SoftBank Group and Tiger Capital in a $600 million financing round.

The funding round, led by SoftBank Group, will be used to expand and improve Kuaidi Dache's services in China, according to a joint statement by the companies.

"Their investment and expertise will enable us to greatly broaden our market reach," said Kuaidi Dache CEO Chuanwei Lu. "We are looking forward to working together to further expand our services, and to continue to positively impact city transportations systems."

Kuaidi Dache was launched in 2012, and by its own estimation now books services to more than 1 million taxis in 300 cities in mainland China and Hong Kong. It claims more than 200 million users.

The Kuaidi Dache app combines integrated mapping and third-party payments integration, while the service includes luxury cars, as well as standard cars.

Kuaidi Dache and Tencent-backed rival Didi Dache -- which reportedly closed a $700 million Series D round late last year -- control around 90 percent of China's online taxi-hailing market.

Alibaba's contribution to the fundraising effort adds to the existing stake it already claimed in the taxi app provider, which holds just over 50 percent of the Chinese mobile taxi booking market by cumulative user accounts, according to consultancy firm Analysys International.

"Kuaidi Dache is transforming China's urban travel through technology, and enriching the lives of many people in the process," said Alibaba Group CEO Jonathan Lu. "Alibaba Group has remained committed to the growth of Kuaidi Dache. as we are confident in its future. We believe that the mobile internet is entering an exciting phase, and Kuaidi Dache is well poised to grow from this."

SoftBank Corp vice chairman Nikesh Arora said that Kuaidi Dache has grown to become a leading player in the Chinese mobile taxi booking industry in just two years of operation, and that he expects to see further growth.

"We are convinced it will see further remarkable growth thanks to its talented team, vision, and leadership. We are excited to support Kuaidi Dache's continued expansion in China," said Arora.

The capital raising round comes as China moves to restrict the use of Uber in the country, banning private cars from taking part in ride-hailing apps. According to the Ministry of Transport, only licensed taxis may use ride-hailing apps.

This could free up some market share for the likes of Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache, which make use of registered taxis rather than private cars, as Uber does.

Uber said at the time that its "business is running as usual", although it did not indicate how many of its drivers might lack taxi licences.

Uber is currently facing legal challenges to its operations in several countries, including South Korea, India, Europe, and Australia, while several of its drivers have been hauled up by authorities for allegedly assaulting riders.

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