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Business

Uber shifts into higher gear in China

Ride-sharing service Uber is planning to invest more than a billion dollars in China, according to the Financial Times, in a drive to expand the number of users there it says are already making a million trips a day.

As its business in China had "doubled in the last month," Uber was planning to invest seven billion yuan ($1.1 billion) in the rapidly expanding market, the British business daily Financial Times reported on its website Friday, citing a company email.

The paper said it obtained the message sent to Uber investors this week by its Chief Executive Travis Kalanick.

"Given our recent success in the region and substantial market share gains, we are planning to invest over 7 billion [renminbi] RMB in China in 2015 alone," the email said, referring to renminbi - the name used for the Chinese currency in international finance.

In the e-mail, Uber claimed almost 1 million trips per day were made by its customers in China. The company currently operates in 11 cities, including the capital Beijing and manufacturing hub Shanghai, where it runs a partnership with China's search-engine leader Baidu, and it has secured investments from financial services and insurance firms.

Expansion mode

Under its plans, Uber said it would begin new operations in 50 of the more than 80 Chinese cities with populations of more than five million people. Uber's expansion is intended to challenge its strongest Chinese rival, Didi Kuaidi, which is backed by Chinese internet giants Alibaba and Tencent.

"China represents one of the largest untapped opportunities for Uber, potentially larger than the US," Kalanick said in the email.

"Success in China, however, takes commitment over the long haul and a strong will, coupled with a unique understanding of the differences in China."

Last month, however, Uber's offices in the southern city of Guangzhou were searched because Chinese authorities suspected violations of transport rules.

The company is also in conflict with local authorities and taxi industries elsewhere in the world. South Korean authorities in March charged 29 people including the company's president with running an illegal taxi service. The rift follows bans on the app on similar grounds in India, Spain and Thailand in 2014.

uhe/ng (AFP, dpa)

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