Alibaba to take 20-30 pct stake in mapping firm AutoNavi - media

SHANGHAI Fri May 10, 2013 2:05am EDT

SHANGHAI May 10 (Reuters) - Alibaba Group, China's largest e-commerce firm, is set to take a 20 to 30 percent stake in Chinese digital mapping and navigation firm AutoNavi Holdings Ltd, local media reported, as it aims to boost its competitveness by beefing up its product lineup.

Citing unidentified sources, news portal Sina said that the deal, likely to be announced on Monday, would make unlisted Alibaba the largest shareholder in U.S.-listed AutoNavi.

An Alibaba official declined to comment. A representative for AutoNavi declined to comment.

The move comes after Alibaba, which competes with Tencent Holidings, acquired an 18 percent stake in Sina Corp's microblogging service Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, at the end of April.

Industry watchers widely expect Alibaba - whose founder Jack Ma steps down as chief executive on Friday - to seek an initial public offering, possibly this year. Some say the company could fetch a valuation as high as Facebook Inc's $100 billion.

Shares in AutoNavi have risen more than 30 percent since the start of May and stand at $14.77 per share, which would value the reported deal at roughly $150 million to $250 million.

Alibaba runs Taobao Marketplace, China's largest consumer-focused e-commerce website; business-to-business commerce platform Alibaba.com; and Alipay, a PayPal-like online payment platform.

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