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Chinese internet rivals seek mergers for more benefits

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Two years ago, Neil Shen, head of Sequoia China, attempted to broker a marriage between two of the internet companies in which he was invested — Meituan.com. and Dianping Holdings. His efforts came as both were burning through cash as they spent heavily to gain customers and market share in businesses which partially overlapped. At that time, Mr Shen did not succeed. 

两年前,红杉中国(Sequoia China)掌舵人沈南鹏(Neil Shen)曾尝试撮合他投资的两家互联网企业美团(Meituan.com)与大众点评(Dianping Holdings)联姻。那时,两家公司都在烧钱,投入大笔资金在部分重叠的业务上争夺客户和市场份额。那一次,沈南鹏没有成功。

 

This month, however, the war between the two groups, which are both in the business of delivering food and offering discounts at restaurants among other things, was called off and Meituan and Dianping agreed to combine.

但在本月,美团和大众点评同意合并,它们之间的战争被叫停了。除了其他业务,美团和大众点评都在提供送餐和餐饮折扣服务。

             

The deal, worth up to $20bn, was just the latest in a series of mergers between Chinese competitors who have decided — often with the forcible intervention of their investors — that they had more to gain by joining forces.

这笔价值高达200亿美元的交易,只是中国竞争对手之间一系列合并案(经常涉及投资人的强力干预)中的最新一笔。这些企业已意识到,结盟会带来更大收益。

       

"In this case one plus one will equal three or four," says Mr Shen.

“在这种情况下,一加一将等于三或四,”沈南鹏说。

 

"Consolidation is the best way to maximise returns," adds Bao Fan, whose Beijing-based Chinese Renaissance advisory and banking boutique advised both companies. "Everything is a function of the supply of capital."     

“整合是实现回报最大化的最佳途径,”为美团和大众点评都提供咨询的华兴资本(Chinese Renaissance)的掌舵人包凡补充说。“一切都是资本供应的函数。”华兴资本是一家位于北京的咨询机构和精品投行。

 

This year is becoming the banner year for mergers in the sector. According to Mergermarket, there have been 267 Chinese technology mergers worth $32bn so far this year, compared with 338 deals worth $26bn for all of 2014.

今年将成为互联网企业合并的标志性年份。Mergermarket的数据显示,今年迄今,中国发生了267起科技企业合并案,交易额达320亿美元,而2014年全年合并案为338起,交易额为260亿美元。

              

As the flow of money into these companies slows, valuations have ceased their gravity-defying ascent and investors have begun to enforce greater discipline on their portfolio companies, despite objections from some of the founding entrepreneurs.

随着流入互联网企业的资金放慢,貌似不受地心引力作用的估值已停止上升,投资人开始对被投资企业施加更严格的约束,尽管这遇到了一些企业创始人的反对。

      

Investment firms such as Sequoia and Tiger Global have drastically reduced the money they are putting into the Chinese internet sector in recent months and have warned the companies in which they invest that if they are too greedy they will not be able to raise money at higher valuations in the future, people familiar with the matter say. 

知情人士表示,近几个月,红杉资本(Sequoia Capital)和老虎环球基金(Tiger Global)等投资机构已大幅减少了对中国互联网行业的投入,并向被投资企业发出警告:如果它们过于贪婪,那么它们未来将不能以较高估值获得融资。

 

Both the trend toward consolidation and the resistance to it on the part of many entrepreneurs reflect an environment that bears little resemblance to that of the US, even as many Chinese internet companies now challenge their American counterparts in valuation and exceed them in scale.    

行业整合趋势,以及许多企业创始人对该趋势的抵制,都表明中国的环境跟美国没有相似之处,尽管许多中国互联网企业如今开始在估值上挑战美国同行,在规模上超过后者。

 

In the US, start-ups "tend to begin life with original business models, the winners tend to emerge early", said Mr Fan. In China, where most start-ups tend to be modelled on an overseas template, "there are many more players, and consolidation takes place over time", he said.         

包凡说,在美国,初创企业“通常靠着原创的商业模式起步,胜者倾向于较早涌现”。他说,在多数初创企业通常拷贝海外模板的中国,“参与者更多,随着时间的推移必然走向整合”。

      

But that means egos are at stake and negotiations can become personal. At times the ill-feeling has become so pronounced that investors sometimes require their unruly entrepreneurs to sign non-disparagement agreements. 

但这意味着创始人的虚荣心可能发作,谈判可能走上“往心里去”的歧路。有时怨恨成为太大的妨碍,以致投资者要求难搞的创业者签署非贬低(non-disparagement)协议。     


Ctrip and Qunar, the great rivals in the online travel business, finally agreed to merge earlier this week, in a $15bn tie-up.  

作为在线旅游业务的两大对手,携程(Ctrip)和去哪儿(Qunar)终于同意合并,合并后估值达150亿美元。

    

But a slowing of outside funding may change things now. Analysts widely expect online travel companies and auto rental firms to either merge with each other or with companies in related spaces. Likely candidates include search engine companies such as Baidu or for the taxi booking firms such as Didi Kuaidi. The goal would be to preserve cash and migrate to different, more value-added business models. 

但如今,外部融资放慢或许会改变局面。分析师普遍预计,在线旅游企业和租车公司或者彼此合并,或者跟相关行业公司合并。可能合并的企业包括,百度(Baidu)等搜索引擎企业,或者滴滴快的(Didi Kuaidi)等出租车叫车企业。目标将是保存现金,过渡到不同的、附加值更大的商业模式。

    

In addition, business models in China tend to be fluid, which can make for shifting alliances. What could be seen as conflicts of interest elsewhere in the world occur with frequency in the mainland.  

此外,中国的商业模式经常变化很快,可能导致联盟关系洗牌。在世界其他地区可能被看作利益冲突的事情,在中国大陆经常发生。

  

Internet group Alibaba is both the third-biggest investor in Meituan, which is primarily a group buying site, and one of its biggest rivals now.   

互联网集团阿里巴巴(Alibaba)既是美团(主要是一家团购网站)的第三大股东,如今也是美团最大的竞争对手之一。

   

But the two were not in direct competition at the time the larger group made its investment. And there may be even more bitter rivalry to come. Meituan plans to go from selling film tickets to the film distribution business. Such a step could lead to a face-off against Alibaba's Ali Pictures in the future.

但是,当阿里巴巴入股美团时,两者并未处于直接竞争之中。未来,两者之间或许会发生更激烈的竞争。美团计划从销售电影票拓展到影片发行。此举可能导致美团在未来与阿里影业(Ali Pictures)发生冲突。

     

Similarly, Mr Shen invested in VIP Shop when it didn't compete with JD.com, another Sequoia investment. Today, however, the two are bitter rivals.

类似地,沈南鹏投资唯品会(Vipshop)时,唯品会并未与京东(JD.com)竞争。京东也是红杉中国的投资对象。但如今,唯品会和京东发生了激烈竞争。

2016-06-23

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