China’s technology giants Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) and Tencent Holdings Ltd (HKG:0700) have acquired shares in Ping An Insurance. The second-largest insurer in mainland China announced to sell 594 million shares at HK$62 per share in a private placement. The move puts Ping An in a key position to capture market share in the rapidly-growing Internet finance sector.
Jack Ma made a personal investment in Ping An
Ping An Insurance raised a total of HK$36.5 billion (US$4.7 billion) from up to 10 investors, the South China Morning Post reported. Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Tencent’s Pony Ma Huateng were the biggest investors in Ping An’s offering. Alibaba and Tencent have made several joint investments since last year. Sources told Financial Times that Jack Ma made a personal investment in the insurer.
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Last November, Alibaba, Tencent and Ping An set up an online insurance company named Zhong An Online Property Insurance to tap into fast-growing online finance sector. Chinese insurers also sell policies through Alibaba’s Taobao. Changjiang Securities analyst Li Jun said that Ping An is shifting its business model towards online finance. Meanwhile, Alibaba and Tencent are building up more brick-and-mortar businesses to support their Internet ventures.
Alibaba intensifies war against Tencent
Online insurance sales in China amounted to 62.2 billion yuan in the first quarter of this year, about 195% higher than the full-year sales of 2013, according to the Insurance Association of China. Ping An, Alibaba and Tencent have also made a combined investment in Huayi Brother Media, a film and television production firm.
Despite their joint investments, Alibaba and Tencent have clashed in some markets. Last week, Alibaba-owned Weibo Corp (ADR) (NASDAQ:WB) started banning users who promoted WeChat on its platform. WeChat, the popular mobile messaging service, is owned by Tencent. Weibo’s move came after WeChat closed the promotion channel of the taxi-hailing service Kuaidi Dache, in which Alibaba owns a stake.
Alibaba shares fell 0.58% to $110.99 in pre-market trading Monday.