New funding makes China's Didi 'most valuable Asian start-up'

China legalised ride-hailing services in July last year and is the world’s largest car-hailing market, fuelled by hundreds of millions of mobile-savvy Chinese millennials

China's ride-hailing leader Didi Chuxing said Friday it had raised more than $5.5 billion in new financing amid reports that the fund injection makes it the most valuable start-up in Asia with a worth over $50 billion.

Beijing based-Didi, which claims nearly 90 percent of China's ride-hailing market after buying rival Uber's assets in the country last year, said it would use the money to "support its global strategy and continued investments in AI-based technologies."

Didi's valuation makes it tops in Asia and number two in the world after Uber's $68 billion, according to rankings by The Wall Street Journal.

The fresh funding moves Didi past Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, which was at $46 billion.

The Wall Street Journal's rankings were based on companies "that are privately held, have raised money in the past four years and have at least one venture-capital firm as an investor."

Didi's statement did not give details on who provided the fresh funds, but Bloomberg News, quoting people familiar with the situation, said the investors include Japan's SoftBank Group, China Merchants Bank, and an arm of China's Bank of Communications.

Didi already lists among its investors Apple and Chinese internet titans Alibaba and Tencent.

China legalised ride-hailing services in July last year and is the world's largest market, fuelled by hundreds of millions of mobile-savvy Chinese millennials.

But Didi, which has operations in over 400 Chinese cities, has hit obstacles including driving restrictions and licensing requirements in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai that have crimped its outlook.

It is hoping that driverless technology can help overcome such hurdles, and last month opened an artificial intelligence lab in Silicon Valley.

"Didi is working towards systemic breakthroughs in intelligent driving technologies and smart transportation architecture," the company said.

"With this new investment, DiDi will continue to work with communities and partners around the world to provide more innovative mobility services, and to expand smart urban transportation programs as part of its efforts to build an efficient and sustainable global mobility ecosystem."

Didi, which completes 20 million rides daily, has sought to expand overseas with an investment into Southeast Asian taxi-booking app Grab last year, following closely on the heels of a tie-up with Uber's US rival Lyft.