UPDATED April 13, 2016
(Originally Published December 27, 2015)
Shanghai-based online food delivery service Ele.me confirmed that Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE: BABA), together with its finance offshoot Ant Financial, agreed to invest $1.25 billion in the company, as previously reported by ExitHub in December.
Alibaba is becoming Ele.me’s largest shareholder with an estimated stake of 27.7%, reportedly giving Ele.me a valuation of $4.5 billion.
Ele.me, China’s largest food delivery service provider, said in a statement that Alibaba invested $900 million in the deal and Ant Financial invested $300 million.
The three companies will have a deeper collaboration, in which ele.me is expected to leverage Alibaba and Ant Financial’s resources, including cloud computing, maps and payment.
Ele.me, which has a daily transaction of more than 100 million yuan（$15.46 million）, will be responsible for the operation of Koubei Waimai, a food delivery site under Ant Financial.
Founded in 2008 by Zhang Xuhao, who in 2013 was on Forbes China ’30 Under 30′ list, Ele.me has previously raised over $1 billion in six rounds from 10 investors, including $630 million in a Series F round in August, from CITIC, Tencent (HK: 0700), JD.com (NASDAQ: JD), Dianping and Sequoia Capital, at a $3 billion valuation, which “catapulted it into one of the largest food ordering platforms after U.S.-based Grubhub, German takeout company Delivery Hero and the United Kingdom’s Just East,” according to Forbes.
CHINA’S TOP-FUNDED UNICORNS
At its previous $3B valuation, Ele.me was already one of the top-funded Chinese unicorns, which according to Business Insider also include the following startups (as of November 3, 2015):
- Xiaomi (valued at $46B, raised $2.45B)
- Meituan-Dianping (valued at $20B, raised $2.51B)
- Didi Kuaidi (valued at $16.5B raised $4B)
- Lufax (valued at $10B, raised $495M)
- Zhong An (valued at $8B, raised $934M)
- DJI Innovations (valued at $8B, raised $100M)
- VANCL (valued at $3B, raised $522M)
- Koudai Shopping (valued at $1.45B, raised $362M)
- Tujia (valued at $1B, raised $400M)
- Mogujie (valued at $1B, raised $200 M)
CHINA’S O2O ONLINE-TO-OFFLINE TREND
Ele.me, which means “Are you hungry now?”, is part of a trend in China for what is known as online-to-offline (O2O) services. These include taxi hailing and restaurant review apps that link smartphone users with offline businesses, said Reuters.
Ele.me currently leads China’s online food ordering sector with a 40% market share, according to Beijing-based consultancy Analysis International. Meituan, in which Alibaba has a small stake, has 34%. Baidu, which has 8.7% of the market, ranks a distant third, added Forbes.
As more Chinese use their phones for everything from shopping to booking restaurants, China’s internet giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU) are increasingly investing in these services to attract more users to their own platforms.
Alibaba, the world’s biggest e-commerce company, and social networking and video games titan Tencent together spent more than $8 billion last year alone backing sometimes strikingly similar ventures, such as taxi hailing apps Kuadi Dache and Didi Dache, commented Reuters.
Alibaba Group is a Chinese e-commerce company that provides consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer and business-to-business sales services via web portals. Alibaba was founded in 1999 by Yun Ma, chairman, and is based in Hangzhou, China. The company has a market capitalization of $200.65 billion as of April 12, 2016.