Chinese search engine giant Baidu Inc. is to invest in the taxi app Uber Technologies Inc., according to media reports.
News of the Uber investment was first reported by Chinese state media China National Radio. There are so far no details about the size of the investment, but Baidu has scheduled a press conference to announce an investment ‘in a U.S.-based startup’ on Dec. 17.
The move could provide the company with a powerful partner in China, a market where its presence is so far limited to the top end of the market in a handful of megacities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Getting a strong new partner in the world’s largest economy would be a welcome fillip for the company that has been beset by a spate of court-ordered restrictions, allegations of poor passenger safety and PR disasters in recent weeks.
For Baidu, a partnership with Uber would increase the range of services it can offer, and ride-booking apps are high on the list of priorities for companies looking to tap the pockets of hundreds of millions of smartphone-wielding Chinese.
Two of Baidu’s biggest rivals in China, Alibaba Group Holdings and Tencent Holdings Ltd. both have their own partnerships with taxi-hailing apps. Kuadi Dache, backed by Alibaba, and Didi Dache, backed by Tencent, each claim around half of the Chinese market, after a bitter and expensive price war with each other in the first half of this year.