By Gerry Shih BEIJING Fri Feb 13, 2015 10:19pm EST BEIJING (Reuters) – Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, two of China’s leading taxi-hailing apps, said on Saturday they would merge to create one of the world’s largest smartphone-based transport services. Financial terms were not disclosed. The firms said the two companies, which have not announced a name for the combined entity, would operate independently under separate brands. Didi chief executive Wei Cheng and Kuaidi chief Dexter Chuanwei Lu would become co-chief executives and formally introduce the new business after the Lunar New Year, the companies said. Didi and Kuaidi, backed by Chinese Internet giants Tencent Holdings Ltd and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, respectively, have been locked in a bitter price war for the past year, as each sought to corner the massive Chinese market despite rumors of mounting losses. Didi was estimated to have a roughly 55 percent market share, with Kuaidi claiming nearly all of the rest in a December study by Analysis International. Until the merger, the two companies had been vying for the world’s largest transport market – more than 150 million Chinese hailing taxis using their smartphones, according to analysts – and received more than $1 billion from private investors in recent months to sustain their battle for market share. Didi raised $700 million from Tencent and Russian private equity fund DST in December, while Kuaidi raised $600 million from backers including Softbank and Tiger Global. The two CEOs said Saturday they are “especially grateful to the company’s shareholders for their support of the company’s independent operations.”â Baidu, the Beijing-based search engine and rival to Tencent and Alibaba in China’s Internet sector, said in December it would invest in Uber to help bring the $40 billion-valued U.S. firm to the Chinese market.
There’s more money flowing into Southeast Asia’s tech startup scene after Singapore’s Golden Equator Capital and Seoul-based Korea Investment Partners announced plans for a collaborative $88 million (SG$120 million) fund for the region. The two investment firms will act as joint partners for the vehicle, which is expected to hit a first close before September and a final close by the end of 2018. Already, they claim to have 65 percent of the target capital committed by LPs. The firms are aiming for the Series A and B spaces with a typical check size of between $1.5 million and $3.7 million for what will be known as the GEC-KIP Fund. It isn’t exactly clear what focus the fund will adopt for investments. Southeast Asia often falls off the radar for investment in Asia, with the far larger countries of China and India typically getting the attention, but rising internet access among the region’s cumulative population of over 600 million signals growth potential. A recent report co-authored by Google forecasts Southeast Asia’s ‘internet economy’ reaching more than $200 billion by 2025, up from just $30 billion in 2015. A few unicorns, including ride-sharing companies Grab and Go-Jek, have also helped put it on the map for investors. Speaking of investors, Golden Equator Capital is part of Golden Equator , a Singapore-based group of businesses that includes financial services, consulting, an incubator and, of course, investment funds. The firm has existing ties with Korea — via a Korea-focused health tech incubator launched last year — and its advisory team includes Taizo Son , founder of Japanese VC firm Mistletoe and brother of SoftBank chairman Masayoshi Son.