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It Took a While but Uber Finally Closed Its $1 Billion China Fund

Even with all that money, the challenges remain big for Uber in China.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Uber has finished raising $1 billion to expand its efforts in China. The round was raised from Asia hedge fund Hillhouse Capital, China search engine Baidu, a Chinese investment bank conglomerate called Citic and other groups, according to Reuters.

The news comes two months after Uber formally launched its fundraising process for a $1 billion investment fund for its China business. That’s a long stretch in Uber time, given the company has a track record of raising huge rounds lightning fast. Meanwhile, its competitor Didi Kuaidi raised $2 billion within a two-week period in July.

Local reports from Chinese media said that investors were wary about backing Uber’s China-specific branch, even if they support the company globally. The Chinese government has a track record of antagonistic relationships with American companies, and as a result very few have managed to successfully break into the market.

Uber also faces intense homegrown competition in the form of Didi Kuaidi, which is estimated to have 70-80 percent of the ride-hailing market there. Didi is backed by two of China’s most powerful Internet giants, Alibaba and Tencent, and Tencent has already gone on the offensive with Uber by blocking the app from appearing in the popular messaging portal WeChat.

China is key to Uber’s future — even before this current round it raised billions of dollars for its global endeavors on the premise that it could grow even more in China and India. Those are the markets that will bring returns to the late-stage investors who backed the company.

For all the obstacles, Uber says it is seeing growth that surpasses hockey-stick levels in the country. In a leaked letter to investors in June, CEO Travis Kalanick predicted that China could surpass the number of U.S. rides by the end of the year. The market is both Uber’s greatest vulnerability and its greatest opportunity.

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