Alibaba is moving to take full ownership of its hugely popular food delivery service Ele.me by buying out other minority stakeholders, including rival tech giant Baidu. The influx of funds from the sale could help Baidu shore up its lead in artificial intelligence research, according to the South China Morning Post.
Alibaba is currently offering $9.5 billion for the remaining shares in Ele.me, Chinese tech news website 36kr.com has reported.
The Hangzhou-based company sees the move as part of its New Retail strategy, in which the group will diversify away from its previous focus on e-commerce toward an approach that integrates online and offline retail, the SCMP says. Alibaba has invested billions in brick-and-mortar retailers as part of this drive over the past few years, including deals to acquire stakes in electronics store chain Suning and supermarket group Lianhua.
Baidu, on the other hand, will attempt to use its exit from the food delivery business as a springboard for ramping up investment in its AI and autonomous driving ventures, which are among the most advanced in China.