LY.com (formerly 17U.com or Tongcheng), one of China’s largest ticketing websites, has secured more than 6 billion RMB ($967 million USD) funding from a consortium led by Chinese real estate conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, Tencent Industrial Capital, CITIC Capital Holdings as well as other institutions. The company did not specify the stakes each investors are acquiring.
The investment, which marks the largest single funding in China’s online travel sector so far, is expected to bring the market valuation of LY.com to 13 billion RMB. Up on completion of this deal, LY.com is re-launching its long-suspended IPO within this year, according to an open letter from the company.
Wanda Group, China’s biggest real estate developer that is quickly expanding to internet-related industries, would pay 3.58 billion RMB of the total investment through its entertainment subsidiary Wanda Culture Industry Group Co. People familiar with the matter disclosed that Wanda Group will become the largest shareholder of LY.com after the deal.
The move is considered as an important step for Wanda to continue its forays into China’s booming online truism sector in an attempt to crate synergy effects between its offline resources and LY.com’s online channels. The conglomerate currently operates and is constructing a combined 12 mega entertainment projects across China, and plans to invest in eight more such projects over the next five years. Its offline truism arm claimed an annual revenue of over 20 billion RMB.
As competition in China’s online tourism industry is reaching a feverish pitch, it is more difficult for companies in this sector to monetize their services. In Q1 this year, most of the leading online travel sites in China are recording profit losses: Ctrip (126 million RMB), Qunar (701 million RMB), eLong (180 million RMB) and Tuniu (233 million RMB).
Similarly, LY.com is facing the same problem. Cooperation with Wanda will help LY.com to capitalize on the latter’s offline resources in tourism agencies, amusement parks and more.
Launched in 2004, LY.com provides hotel/ flights/ cruise booking/ sightseeing tickets, services for travelers and group buying deals. The company’s existing investors include Tencent, Oriza, Boyu Capital as well as its major rival Ctrip.
image credit: LY.com, Wanda Group