All signs are pointing to an initial public offering for Uber after reports that a major Chinese investment group is leading their latest funding round.
Chinese fund manager Hillhouse Capital Group is leading an investment in the ride-sharing company that could reach around $1 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. The convertible bond deal involves buying bonds that can be converted into shares at a discount to the company’s IPO price. The longer it takes for Uber to go public, the greater the return for investors, providing a time-laden incentive for the company to launch an IPO soon. Uber had previously raised around $1.6 billion from the wealth-management division of Goldman Sachs in a very similar deal in January.
The entrance of Hillhouse is also notable for two reasons: The Beijing-based firm is one of the biggest fund managers in Asia, overseeing assets in excess of $20 billion; and Hillhouse’s previous investments in technology firms, such as China’s Tencent Holdings, have paid off.
Working with such a prominent firm also plays well with Uber’s ambitions to go big in China. Earlier this month, CEO Travis Kalanick said in an email that went public that the company’s global team was spending $1 billion on expanding into China, making it the company’s “number one priority”. Uber already operates in around 300 cities.
The deal should also send confusing signals to Didi Kuaidi, the largest taxi-hailing app in China, and, by definition, Uber’s biggest competitor. Hillhouse is also an investor in the Chinese startup, and this latest news will worry them. This comes after tech sites in Asia highlighted a consumer report that Didi Kuadi had experienced more customer data leaks from taxi apps between January of 2014 and May of 2015 in China when compared to Uber.