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Qunar gets closer to Baidu (or is Baidu getting closer to Qunar?)

09/14/2015| 11:02:15 PM| 中文

Qunar has announced a “strengthening of its strategic alliance” with majority shareholder Baidu, which sees three Baidu execs join the Qunar board of directors and some new co-operation agreements between the two.

Qunar has announced a “strengthening of its strategic alliance” with majority shareholder Baidu, which sees three Baidu execs join the Qunar board of directors and some new co-operation agreements between the two.

It’s been a big week organisationally for Qunar, following the announcement that is was creating three new business units, each with a dedicated CEO, focussed on areas with the highest growth potential.

It is interesting to note the expertise of the new members – particularly Yuming He.

He joined Baidu in August as executive director of strategic investment, bringing fifteen years’ experience of “overseas listings, fund investments, mergers and acquisitions, and strategy and planning for listed companies and growth companies” to the Baidu, and now Qunar, tables.

M&A in the Chinese travel sector has been prolific this year, with Qunar itself caught up in a confused takeover saga with its rival Ctrip. Since then, the biggest specific move has been Tencent’s bid to take eLong private.

Speaking to analysts on its 2015 Q2 earnings call, Qunar’s CFO Yilu Zhao said “We evaluate opportunities in the market very actively, in an ROI driven manner, be it an investment or for organic growth. There are no material opportunities in the market now nor are we in any active discussion that we should disclose to the market.”

Whether the appointment of a strategic investment expert on the board will lead to a change in attitude to M&A remains to be seen.

Qunar’s biggest recent M&A play of its own came late last year, when it bought a stake in offline travel agency chain Bestone. It was described at the time as Qunar’s biggest ever investment.

Bestone is an offline travel agency chain with 3,500 outlets across China. A Qunar spokesperson told Tnooz at the time that one of Qunar’s priorities is to be ready to capture the O2O  – online-to-offline – business which will come as even more Chinese people start to change their shopping habits.

And this could be where another of the new Baidu execs come in. Liang Zeng is general manager of Baidu’s Nuomi unit, “an online-to offline service platform focused on connecting consumers to merchants”.

In fact, one of the new collaborations between Qunar and Baidu also announced today is that “Qunar users will be able to access Baidu’s extensive online-to-offline (O2O) supply chain in restaurant booking and food delivery.”

As an idea of the scale of the 020 market Nuomi has cornered, in a single day this summer (Aug 22) the platform handled RMB340 million ($53 million)-worth of business for its restaurant customers.

Nuomi is a priority for Baidu – it announced in August that it would be spending $3.2 billion on the platform over the next three years. It looks like it is now part of Qunar’s make-up as well.

The other specific operational tie-up between the two is that “Baidu will gain broader access to Qunar’s travel products, expanding beyond hotels to park and attraction tickets, with more categories in the pipeline.”

Qunar’s hotel inventory was recently integrated into Baidu Maps.

Finally, the announcement confirms that Qunar’s CEO CC Yheung and CFO Yilu Zhao have had their contracts extended by four years, “affirming the Board’s confidence in the management team in driving Qunar’s growth”

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TAGS: Qunar | OTA | Baidu
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