CHINA - Baidu Inc said it will acquire 91 Wireless Websoft Ltd, a mobile app store, for $1.9 billion (S$2.4 billion) as the search provider pursues a greater presence in the emerging mobile Internet industry.
The proposed acquisition is the most expensive deal in China's Internet history.
The largest Chinese language Internet search provider said on Tuesday it agreed to buy a 57.4 per cent stake in 91 Wireless from online gaming developer NetDragon Websoft Inc for $1.09 billion, with the remainder to be acquired from other shareholders.
Richard Li, younger son of the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing, is a major investor in 91 Wireless. It is unclear if Li will sell his stake to Baidu.
More than 10 billion apps have been downloaded through 91 Wireless since 2007. The company claims to be the biggest third-party app distributor in China in terms of active users and accumulated downloads.
If the deal is completed, 91 Wireless' listing plan on the growth enterprise market in Hong Kong will be cancelled, according to NetDragon.
The companies will further negotiate the relevant terms before signing the definitive agreements on Aug 14.
Baidu, based in Beijing, is beefing up its mobile arm after investors claimed the money-rich Web search giant had missed opportunities to tap into the rapidly expanding mobile Internet market.
Turnover of the nation's mobile Internet market is expected to hit 300 billion yuan (S$61.4 billion) in 2014, compared with 150 billion yuan last year, research company Analysys International has estimated.