Can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That appears to be the thinking of China Life, Asia Pacific’s highest valued insurance firm, after it backed Chinese taxi app Didi Chuxing barely months after investing in fierce rival Uber China.
Didi announced today that it has scored $600 million in fresh financing from the insurance company, half of which will go towards its latest funding round which a spokesperson confirmed has now exceeded $3.5 billion but is still to close. That’s likely to value Didi around the $25 billion mark and will include the surprise $1 billion investment from Apple that was announced one month ago.
Back in January, China Life took part in an undisclosed (but above-billion-dollar) Series B round that valued Uber China at $7 billion. Now it is covering its bases and providing capital to Didi in two ways: via an an equity investment of $300 million, which will go towards the aforementioned round, and a separate “long-term debt investment” of RMB 2 billion (around $305 million).
Four-year-old Didi, which claims 14 million daily rides on its service and counts Tencent and Alibaba as investors, said the strategic investment will see the companies work together on a range of initiatives that will include new insurance and financial services. That’ll also include “investment opportunities in mobile transportation and related sectors in China and beyond,” the company said.
It’s often hard to decode the generalities in media announcements, particularly with Uber and its rivals, but China Life is grappling on to Didi, which claims 300 million users of its taxi, chauffeur, bus and other services, to unlock new opportunities. Didi claims it works with 15 million car owners which is obviously very appealing to an insurance company. Did has already aligned itself with Ping An, a fellow insurance firm that invested in a $2 billion round last summer, but that’s not where the alliances end.
Uber China, which believes it can overtake Didi over the next year, counts Hong Kong-based China Taiping Insurance among its investor list, which also includes Baidu, airline firm HNA Group, automaker GAC, and investment bank CITIC Securities.
The two companies share two other investors beyond China Life. Both China-based Hillhouse Capital and New York’s Tiger Global have invested in Didi and Uber China although, unlike China Life, both firms backed Didi first before investing in Uber Global, which itself is an investor in Uber China. Yes, things start to get more than a little tangled.