Meituan Dianping, China’s largest group-buying and restaurant reviews service, is said to be close to finalizing a deal to raise at least $3 billion from investors including Capital Group, according to people familiar with the matter.
The company backed by WeChat-operator Tencent Holdings Ltd. is said to be targeting at least $3 billion at a $28 billion valuation, the people said, asking not to be named talking about a private deal. That would make it the world’s fifth-most valuable startup, surpassing SpaceX and WeWork Cos. It’s now hammering out the final details with investors including U.S. financial powerhouse Capital Group and a deal could be sealed within days, one of the people said.
Meituan is building a war chest as it vies for dominance in China’s so-called online-to-offline market. Formed in 2015 through the merger of Meituan.com and Dianping.com, it’s become the dominant player in the emerging market for internet-based services, from food delivery to movie ticketing via smartphone apps. Competitors backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. have similarly ramped up funds to bankroll expansions into more cities and businesses.
Jane Zuo, a spokeswoman for Meituan, declined to comment. Veronica Dekrey Kwong, a spokeswoman for Capital Group, declined to comment. The 86-year-old Los Angeles-based investment house manages about $1.5 trillion in long-term assets globally and is active in Asia, she said, though it hasn’t been known to be an aggressive investor in Chinese startups.
Meituan is a marquee player in a war waged between Alibaba and Tencent, who’re using startups in food delivery and neighborhood services as proxies in their battle for mobile payments and internet usage. The deep-pocketed giants, both of which have market values of at least $400 billion, have splurged billions on expanding into on-demand services. Revenue from the sector is expected to reach $230 billion in 2018, according to consultancy IResearch.
Meituan’s got a complicated history with Alibaba. Once an ally and portfolio company, it riled China’s biggest e-commerce firm when it merged with Tencent-backed Dianping. That soured relations and Alibaba eventually sold the majority of its shares in Meituan. The two have since waged a costly war that’s driving smaller competitors from the market: Baidu Inc. sold its food delivery service Waimai to a company backed by Alibaba at a discount.
Meituan’s latest fundraising effort emerged in August, when people familiar with the matter said it was seeking funds of between $3 billion and $5 billion. The Chinese startup, which in 2016 raised $3.3 billion at a valuation of $18 billion, said in May it had more than $3 billion in cash reserves. It said then it completes more than 18 million orders a day, with more than 240 million active annual buyers.