Alibaba is Seeking to Invest $227 Million in SenseTime
It seems like Chinese online retailer Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is about to make its second huge investment in artificial intelligence (AI) company SenseTime.
A source with knowledge of the matter said on Thursday that the e-commerce giant is seeking to invest about CN¥1.5 billion ($227 million) in the Beijing-based facial recognition startup.
The transaction, if successful, will make Alibaba the largest backer of SenseTime. It could also help SenseTime to fund its research in emerging fields, including image recognition as well as autonomous driving applications.
The tech company, which is considered as one of the more innovative contender in machine vision technology, is currently worth more than $2 billion and is backed by American telecom equipment group Qualcomm.
If both companies settled on an agreement, Alibaba’s founder and executive chairman Jack Ma will be holding two prominent facial recognition startups, including its fintech affiliate Ant Financial Services Group.
The person stated that Alibaba is determined to have a considerable stake, but it is not interested in wielding control over SenseTime. Alibaba and SenseTime have not commented on the matter.
Growing AI Investment in China
The online retailer made its first major investment in a Chinese AI company last month when its Alipay operator Ant Financial joined a $460 million series C financing round in another facial recognition tech provider Face++, which is operated by software developer Megvii Technology Inc.
The $460 million was intended to maintain research in the AI field, which is rapidly being utilized across financial services, grocery businesses, and police surveillance.
China has supported the pursuit of the technology through a plan that orders the country to become the leader in the industry by 2030.
Five years after that, the government believes that the AI business will bring in CN¥400 billion ($60.5 billion) in economic activity.
Besides Alibaba, other major Chinese tech companies, including Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Baidu Inc. have also been aggressively investing in AI companies in the past year.