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BlackRock is the latest Uber investor to back its fierce Chinese rival Didi Chuxing

TechCrunch TechCrunch 16/06/2016 Jon Russell

China Life, Asia’s largest insurance firm, isn’t the only Uber investor to double dip and put money into its Chinese rival Didi Chuxing via its blockbuster $7.2 billion round announced this week. New York-based investment firm BlackRock also partook in the fundraising, which values Didi at $28 billion, a source close to the deal told TechCrunch.

BlackRock, which has $4.6 trillion in assets under management and offices in 30 countries, invested in Uber back in 2014 when the ride-sharing giant raised a then-unprecedented $1.2 billion. (Those were the days when such deals actually raised eyebrows.) Uber now covers over 200 cities worldwide, but it was in just 128 when BlackRook contributed (a reported) $215 million to its coffers.

Fast forward two years and things have changed, particularly in China, where Uber is investing billions. It’s hard to find reliable data on the ride-sharing market but Didi is generally acknowledged to be some way ahead of Uber in the country, despite China representing four of Uber’s top cities worldwide. Didi is also a thorn in Uber’s side outside of its native China. It has invested in Lyft, Ola in India and Southeast Asia’s Grab and is sharing best practices, linking the respective services for users and generally helping them fight Uber in their respective regions.

Uber China’s head believes the company can snag the top spot within the next twelve months, but some Uber investors aren’t taking that for granted and are putting money into arch nemesis Didi to hedge their bets.

China Life put $600 million into Didi’s new round — which also included Apple’s historic $1 billion investment — but our source was unable to verify the size of BlackRock’s contribution. Those two are not the only ones to have put money into both rival companies. China-based Hillhouse Capital and New York’s Tiger Global have invested in Didi and Uber, although both backed Didi first.

Didi doesn’t have international expansion plans, so investors are very much betting that it can lead the ride-sharing market in China, the land of more than a billion people. Li Zijian, senior director for international strategy at Didi, recently pegged on-demand transportation industry in China to be worth $200 billion over the next five years. He added that Didi, which claims to be profitable in over 100 cities in China but not profitable overall, is taking just 1.1 percent of the whole market right now. That’s the growth opportunity that investors are bullish on.

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