A report on November 17 claimed that Baidu is mulling a RMB 2 billion acquisition of third-party online payment site 99Bill and that the deal is the work of senior management consultant He Haiwen, wife of 99Bill Chairman and CEO Oliver Kwan. Doubt has been cast as to whether their personal relationship is connected to the transaction.
The couple is well known in the Chinese technology industry. Mr. Kwan was formerly vice-president and his wife was the original CFO at Netease. After leading the founding team to register Netease on Nasdaq, the couple separately left the company to start their own firm in 2001.
Ms He was with Baidu from 2003 to 2004 contributing to the company’s rapid development. She returned to Baidu as a senior management consultant in May 2011 and has become known as “Baidu’s Shadow CFO” responsible for major operations management such as recommending Baidu’s acquisition of UC browser in 2013.
There have been unconfirmed rumors that Ms. He and Mr. Kwan were already divorced, and observers said it was hard to determine if the rumor had anything to do with the acquisition.
99Bill has developed into a comprehensive online financial services company, a strong player in the new battlefield of tech giants such as Alibaba, Tencent, JD, Netease and 58. Baidu’s “Baidu Wallet” e-payment is still in the marketing stage and hasn’t built up a presence yet in the field dominated by Alibaba and Tencent.
Details about the acquisition are still sketchy, but if it goes through 99Bill hopes to use Baidu’s powerful platform to accelerate its development.
Established in 2014, 99Bill has 1300 staff and over 30 branches in cities such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
According to iResearch’s 2013 data on China’s third-party payment companies, Alipay ranked first in scale of transactions and holds a 48.7% market share. Tenpay is second with a 19.4% market share. Union Pay is third with an 11.2% market share, 99Bill is fourth with a 6.7% market share, and China PnR is fifth with a 5.8% market share.(Translation by David)