Chinese state media reports that search engine giant Baidu, the country’s answer to Google, is set to make a large investment in ride-sharing service Uber. According to state-owned broadcaster China National Radio, the deal will be announced December 17 at a press conference at Baidu’s Beijing headquarters. According to AFP, “Baidu founder Robin Li and a ‘mysterious guest’—whom unnamed sources said would be Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick—will attend the press conference.”
This investment would be a huge victory for Uber in China. While the service has become available in different cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou since August 2013, Uber remains dwarfed by in-country competitors, the taxi-hailing apps Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache. Kuaidi, backed by China’s e-commerce colossus Alibaba, has a 54.4% market share, while Didi, staked by Tencent, controls 44.9%.
As the Chinese economy grows, it makes sense for a company like Uber, which is estimated to be worth $40 billion, to try and pump up its product’s presence there. The potential for growth by expanding further and digging into the two-headed beast at the top of the ride-sharing market in China is too good to pass up, and with the significant legal trouble Uber is facing elsewhere on the continent, the company could use a win.