WeChat maker Tencent has announced that it plans to buy an 11.3 percent stake in one of China's largest mapping companies: NavInfo.
The deal will cost Tencent $187 million, or 1.17 billion yuan, and will make the Chinese Internet company the second-largest shareholder of NavInfo. Tencent will buy 78 million shares from NavInfo's owner, state-run China Siwei Surveying and Mapping Technology Corp. The deal was announced in a Shenzen Stock Exchange filing and was first reported by Bloomberg. NavInfo is "one of the veteran mapping companies in China, starting off with business-facing mapping data business," according to TechNode, and it began to focus on the consumer end last year. While it is currently unknown what Tencent will do with this investment, the company is expected to use NavInfo's technology to power its own mapping services including mapping apps, streetview products, and Lubao Box, a navigation device for drivers.
Tencent is not the only player cashing in on mapping companies. Rival Alibaba Group, which is currently getting ready for its massive IPO, recently acquired AutoNavi Holdings, a mobile mapping provider and one of NavInfo's biggest competitors. AutoNavi powers Alibaba's location-based e-commerce mobile services as well as a variety of other navigation offerings including map engines, location search, and more. Alibaba first became a major stakeholder in AutoNavi in May of last year. Before May 2013, Alibaba did not have its own standalone map service, leaving a major gap in its product roster. Rivals Tencent and Baidu had already established standalone map services at this time.
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