【英语财经】中国互联网行业为何频掀收购潮? China’s internet troika on a spree for digital rivals

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2014-6-17 07:57

小艾摘要: China’s troika of digital champions collectively known as BAT further underlined their hold on the world’s biggest market of internet users when Alibaba – the e-commerce group – snapped up UCWeb, ...
China’s internet troika on a spree for digital rivals
China’s troika of digital champions collectively known as BAT further underlined their hold on the world’s biggest market of internet users when Alibaba – the e-commerce group – snapped up UCWeb, a Chinese internet browser company, last week.

Search engine Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, a gaming and social media conglomerate based in the southern city of Shenzhen, have risen far past their peers and are buying almost any and everything – from app stores, to travel websites and virtual taxi services, as they rush to steal a march on each other. Their targets, including UCWeb, are receptive to these offers, which provide a quick way to cash out without a time-consuming and complex listing.

UCWeb, which began laying the groundwork for an initial public offering two years ago, instead sold the remaining 34 per cent stake to Alibaba. “If it were a matter of wielding more control [over the company], then it would make sense to list at a later stage,” chairman Yu Yongfu told employees in an internal memo.

“But as the leader of this team I face immense pressure to bring greater economic benefits and possibilities for personal development for everyone.” UCWeb will be paid mainly in shares of Alibaba, which will list later this year in one of the biggest IPOs of all time.

UCWeb is treading a familiar path – last year a number of companies made the same calculation. Autonavi, a US listed virtual mapping software company, was bought out by Alibaba in deals in 2013 and 2014 which valued it at $1.6bn.

Autonavi’s chief executive, Cheng Congwu, says size matters in order to compete in China’s internet today. “Each independent app and service needs to attach itself in the larger ecosystem; not every company is big enough to be its own ecosystem,” Mr Cheng said in a speech at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing in May.

“The mobile internet is full of transformations and challenges, and, as I see it, is a game for giants. In such a world we must make our own decisions and arrangements.”

Competition in China’s internet market is fierce, and market share increasingly belongs to companies with pockets deep enough to tough out price wars.

“The whole system is changing, and the ticket to participate in that change is market share,” says CC Zhuang, chief executive of Qunar, China’s largest travel website by volume, which sold a majority stake to Baidu in 2011. Endless price wars on the Chinese internet, he said, are “not good or bad, just the future”.

Youku Tudou, China’s most popular video hosting site, sold an 18 per cent share to Alibaba and affiliated investors in April, after competition from Tencent’s QQ and Baidu’s Iqiyi drove the price of content to exorbitant levels.

The second most popular video site – Sohu TV, which belongs to Sohu Group, an internet portal – is persistently rumoured to be in negotiations to sell a stake to a BAT company.

Another example of a strong internet player that nonetheless sought an alliance with one of the big three is JD.com, an Amazon-like e-commerce site that competes head-to-head with Alibaba.

It sold a 15 per cent stake to Tencent, alongside its May IPO, which valued the company at nearly $26bn.

The move was applauded by analysts as a win for both companies, giving Tencent a fully formed ecommerce company to compete with Alibaba.

Other deals may not be far off. As well as Sohu TV, speculation hovers over Ctrip, a travel website similar to Expedia.

“It’s the best of times and the worst of times to be an internet company founder,” said Wang Xiaochuan, chief executive of the Sogou search engine which sold a stake to Tencent last year, in a March interview.

“Generous acquisitions from internet conglomerates are now providing a way out for many entrepreneurs. But if your company is not out in front, it’s not an option, and there aren’t many other options.”

Additional reporting by Ma Fangjing

上周,中国电子商务集团阿里巴巴(Alibaba)迅速拿下了中国互联网浏览器公司UC优视(UCWeb)。此事进一步凸显出,被称为BAT(百度(Baidu)、阿里巴巴腾讯(Tencent))的中国数字领域三巨头,牢牢把持着中国这一全球互联网用户第一大市场。

搜索引擎百度、阿里巴巴、以及总部位于华南深圳市的游戏及社交媒体巨头腾讯这三家互联网企业,已将其他同行远远甩在身后。为了在彼此的竞争中抢占先机,这三家公司正大举收购几乎一切东西,从应用商店、到旅游网站和虚拟打车服务。而它们的收购对象,包括UC优视在内,都乐意接受收购提议,因为这是一个快捷的套现方法,省去了耗时又复杂的上市。

UC优视于两年前开始筹备首次公开发行(IPO),最终却将剩余的34%股份也出售给了阿里巴巴。UC优视董事长俞永福在内部邮件中告诉员工:“如果为(公司的)控制力,不上市和晚上市对创业者更有利。”

“作为团队带头人,我们有巨大的责任和压力帮大家实现更好的个人发展和物质回报。”阿里巴巴将主要以换股的方式来收购UC优视。阿里巴巴将于今年晚些时候上市,其IPO将成为有史以来规模最大的一笔之一。

UC优视走的路线并不新鲜,去年许多公司都打了同一笔算盘。通过在2013年和2014年的多笔交易,美国上市的虚拟地图软件公司高德(AutoNavi)成为阿里巴巴的全资子公司,收购估值为16亿美元。

高德首席执行官成从武表示,规模在当今中国互联网竞争中起着重要作用。今年5月全球移动互联网大会(Global Mobile Internet Conference)在北京举行,成从武在会上发言说:“移动互联网任何一个独立的应用和服务必须寄生在一个大的生态体系里面,所以大的生态体系没有一家能够彻底把它做到。”

“移动互联网充满了变化、充满了机会,但是我自己认为还是巨人的游戏。这种情况下我们这种大的生态必然会做出一些安排和选择。”

中国互联网市场的竞争异常激烈,市场份额日益被那些荷包充实到足以挺过价格战的公司瓜分。

中国流量最大的旅游网站去哪儿网(Qunar)首席执行官庄辰超说:“整个体系在变,而参与这场变化的门票就是市场份额。”去哪儿网在2011年将大部分股票出售给了百度。对于中国互联网无休无止的价格大战,他评价道:“谈不上好坏,只是未来的发展方向而已。”

今年4月,中国最热门的视频网站优酷土豆(Youku Tudou)将18%的股份出售给阿里巴巴及其相关投资者。此前,来自腾讯旗下QQ和百度旗下爱奇艺(Iqiyi)的竞争,将内容价格拉到过高水平。

互联网门户搜狐集团(Sohu Group)旗下搜狐视频(Sohu TV)是第二大热门视频网站,一直有传言说它在与BAT中的一家洽谈售股事宜。

本身实力强劲、却依然寻求与三巨头之一合作的另一个案例就是京东(JD.com)。京东是一家类似于亚马逊(Amazon)的电子商务网站,与阿里巴巴正面竞争。

京东于今年5月IPO前将15%的股份出售给了腾讯。京东的IPO估值近260亿美元。

此举被分析师赞为两家公司的双赢,它为腾讯提供了一个完全成型的电子商务公司,从而可以与阿里巴巴展开竞争。

其他收购交易或许也不会遥远。跟搜狐视频一样,有关旅游网站携程(CTrip,与Expedia类似)可能被收购的猜测也挥之不去。

搜狗(Sogou)搜索引擎首席执行官王小川在3月的一次采访中说:“这是互联网最好的时代,也是最坏的时代。”腾讯去年入股搜狗。

“巨头们的大手笔收购,为创业者提供了另一条退出方式,但是如果公司本身在业内毫无竞争力,还是同样没有机会。”

Ma Fangjing补充报道

译者/曲雯雯

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