Baidu

China’s search giant expands entertainment activities

HONG KONG – Baidu, China’s leading Internet search provider, is to pay $1.9 billion for Wireless 91 Websoft, the country’s leading platform for third-party mobile applications.

The deal comes after Baidu reached terms with Hong Kong-listed online games firm NetDragon to buy out NetDragon’s 57% stake in 91 Wireless. Baidu expects to buy out the minority interests from individual investors on similar terms. Definitive agreements are expected to be signed by Aug 14.

Wireless 91, launched in 2007, operates two smartphone apps marketplaces (91 Assistant and HiMarket) and other consumer tools for users of mobile phones. With over 10 billion apps downloaded, the company claims to be the top app distributor in China both by active users and by historic downloads.

In February this year NetDragon announced plans to give Wireless 91 its own listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, but in May it announced a suspension of the listing process as other strategic investors – rumored to include Alibaba – emerged.

Baidu, which is listed on NASDAQ, is busily expanding into new business areas and integrating them with its search capabilities. Earlier this year it announced plans to acquire the controversial but hugely popular online video firm PPS Net TV (aka PPS.TV). That was Baidu’s second foray into the online video sector, having previously swallowed iQiyi, a company which claims to have been China’s first video website to only deliver professionally-made and licensed content.

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