Tencent, the internet giant that recently became Asia’s first $500 billion company, is continuing its investment spree after it agreed to buy $604 million in shares of Chinese online retailer Vipshop.
The deal is being made with long-time partner JD.com, which will invest $259 million into Vipshop, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. That takes the total between the two to $863 million.
The duo are paying a 55 percent premium for the stock, which will give Tencent a seven percent share and JD.com a 5.5 percent share in Vipshop. The investments will also allow each firm to appoint a board member based on shareholding terms following a two-year lock-up period.
Vipshop is best-known as an online discount retailer for brands, with a particular focus on the fashion space. It went public in a lackluster 2012 listing, but it is seen as a strategic ally for Tencent and JD.com in their ongoing battle to rival Alibaba, which is China’s largest e-commerce firm by some margin and has had an incredible financial performance this year. That was the same rationale for Tencent’s investment in JD.com in 2014 — the company is the closest direct rival to Alibaba — and it doubled down to become its leading investor last year.
Together, Tencent and JD.com have worked on frontier investments — particularly in Southeast Asia where both have backed Uber rival Go-Jek, and JD.com has done other deals in Indonesia and Thailand — but now they are converging again to boost their position on fashion e-commerce.
The investments in Vipshop will also be matched with strategic alliances. Tencent will help Vipshop into the wallet section on Weixin — the Chinese version of its popular WeChat app — while it JD.com will grant the company a prominent position on its main page and within its Weixin ‘mobile store.’ JD.com said it will also “assist Vipshop in achieving certain GMV targets” through its e-commerce platform.
“We look forward to providing Vipshop with our audiences, marketing solutions, and payment support to help the company provide branded apparel and other product categories to China’s rising middle class,” Tencent President Martin Lau said in a statement.
“We already see substantial demand from our users to discover, discuss and purchase branded apparel in our applications, and we believe that connecting our users more deeply to products on Vipshop’s platform will enrich their online experiences while benefiting Vipshop,” Lau added.
The deal is a continuation of a busy period of investment in 2017 for Tencent. The firm put money into three prominent global consumer companies Tesla, Snap, and Spotify, while also backing India-based unicorns Flipkart, messaging app Hike, health portal Practo and Uber rival Ola. Other earlier-stage deals include flying cars, lunar drones and asteroid mining, while longer-standing investments like Sogou (search), Sea (games) and China Literature (e-publishing) have gone public in recent months.
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