We’ve heard plenty of rumors about Apple building a car over the past couple of years, all of which the company has vehemently denied. But today, it’s expanded its business to include vehicles in a way that you wouldn’t quite expect.
Reuters reports that Apple has invested $1 billion in Didi Chuxing, the Uber-like ride-sharing service that dominates in China, having cornered more than 87 percent of the market there.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the funding – the largest single investment Didi Chuxing has ever received – is a step towards helping his company gain a better understanding of China:
We are making the investment for a number of strategic reasons, including a chance to learn more about certain segments of the China market. Of course, we believe it will deliver a strong return for our invested capital over time as well.
The company could certainly benefit from cozying up to China, which is Apple’s second largest market by revenue. Last month, government authorities ordered it to shut down its iTunes book and movie stores in the country, just half a year after they opened there.
At that time, Apple didn’t have a set timeline for when it’d be able to reopen its digital shopfronts, signaling a lack of understanding and cooperation with regulatory bodies in China. Last October, the company’s News service, available on iOS, was also ordered to be deactivated in the country.
Of course, Apple’s investment should also bring in major returns. In addition to crushing Uber in China by completing 11 million rides a day, Didi Chuxing has also formed an alliance with Lyft, Grab and Ola so users from China can pay for cabs in the US, India and across Southeast Asia, in their home currency. The combined reach of these four companies is estimated to be nearly half the world’s population.