In news from today and over the weekend, Baidu’s chief operating officer steps down, Vietnam looks into Grab-Uber deal, and a streaming platform will embrace user-generated content.
GrabPay heads north, partners big bank (Malaysia/Singapore). Grab has announced it will soon launch GrabPay in Malaysia, marking the digital wallet’s first expansion beyond Singapore. To make it happen, Grab has partnered with Maybank, the country’s largest bank. Customers will be able to use the digital wallet at GrabPay’s partner merchants first, and later within Maybank’s merchant network too. They’ll also be able to top-up through Maybank’s online banking service, while Maybank customers will be able to use their bank’s QR-code payment system at GrabPay merchants. (Tech in Asia)
Investing in Ant Financial comes with strings attached (China). Investors are being told that if they want to join the Alibaba affiliate’s current funding round, they must not invest in firms controlled by major rivals, such as Tencent. Ant Financial is closing a US$10 billion private fundraising that might value the company at US$150 billion, sources said. (The Wall Street Journal)
Grab-Uber antitrust allegations under investigation (Vietnam). The country’s Ministry of Industry and Trade is scrutinizing Grab’s takeover of Uber’s local operations, after a preliminary investigation discovered the deal might have violated antitrust regulations. The probe could last for up to 300 days according to a statement from the ministry. It previously warned that the deal could be undone if Grab and Uber’s combined market share surpasses a regulatory threshold of 50 percent. (Reuters)
Mobike enters Indian market (China/India). The Chinese bike-sharing firm’s signature orange bicycles will soon appear in New Delhi, Bangalore, and Ahmedabad, according to a company spokesperson. Rival Ofo has been in India since November last year and had 1.1 million rides by March this year. In December 2017, Indian ride-hailing company Ola launched bike-sharing services in several university campuses throughout the country. (South China Morning Post)
Ofo to sell ad space on bikes and app (China). Mobike’s key rival is launching custom-designed bikes with ads appearing on its wheels, saddles, and baskets, in an effort to raise revenues. There are rumors that Ofo is experiencing a cash strain, and has failed to pay bike manufacturers and cut orders of new bikes. (TechNode)
Media and entertainment
IQiyi rolls out on-demand cinema screenings, short videos (China). The content streaming platform is now letting users book private, on-demand cinemas to play their choice of films from its archives. The first of these venues – named Yuke – has opened in Zhongshan, Guangdong. In a statement, iQiyi said it will launch more Yuke theaters in large and medium-sized cities in China. In a separate development, the company revealed plans to enter the user-generated short video market, estimating that it will need a one to three-year period to create a successful app to compete with the likes of Douyin and Kuaishou. (South China Morning Post)
Orbbec gets US$200 million series D funding (China). The maker of motion sensors secured the investment in a round led by Ant Financial. Also participating were SAIF Partners, Green Pine Capital Partners, R-Z Capital, and Tianlangxing Capital. The company designs and manufactures 3D sensors that enable facial, gesture, and even skeletal recognition. (China Money Network)
Amazon India’s Dale Vaz goes to Swiggy (India). The ecommerce platform’s head of technology in the country is now with the food-delivery firm Swiggy, according to sources. Vaz, who spent 10 years at Amazon, will reportedly head Swiggy’s engineering team. The move comes weeks after Amazon lost out in its bid to purchase Flipkart, which was acquired by Walmart for US$16 billion. (The Economic Times)
Squline to offer language classes Down Under (Indonesia/Australia). The language learning platform will expand to Australia, offering Indonesian classes from native-speaking teachers through video calls. The Australian-Indonesian Association of South Australia says that Indonesian is being taught in 83 state-run schools in the state. (e27)
Baidu’s Lu Qi steps down as COO (China). Citing “personal and family reasons,” the tech giant’s chief operating officer will leave his position in July and will assume the role of vice chairman instead. A former Microsoft executive, Lu joined Baidu in January 2017, when it was shifting its focus to artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, company vice president Wang Haifeng will be promoted to senior vice president and oversee AI projects. These changes are the latest in a series of executive reshuffles at the company. In March last year, chief scientist Andrew Ng exited after three years of heading Baidu’s AI research. (South China Morning Post)
Google challenges antitrust ruling in plea (India). The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has reportedly fined the US company US$20 million, saying Google abused its position in online search. The CCI also ordered the company to cease from imposing restrictions on its direct search agreements with other publishers. In a legal document, Google said that implementing the CCI’s findings “without appellate scrutiny would cause Google irreparable reputational loss.” (Reuters)
See: Previous Asia tech news roundups
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