BEIJING, March 21 China's largest internet
company Tencent has agreed to spend $180 mln on a 15
percent stake in online services provider Leju Holdings,
stepping up its rivalry with fellow online heavyweight Alibaba
Tencent also agreed to subscribe to additional Leju shares
in a proposed initial public offering (IPO) to maintain the 15
percent equity interest, it said in a joint statement with
Leju's owner, real estate services group E-House.
The initial Tencent transaction is expected to close this
month, the companies said, and E-House has already filed a draft
registration with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
for the IPO.
Tencent's investment brings it a step closer to territory
controlled by e-commerce leader Alibaba as both groups, along
with search engine company Baidu Inc, race to attract
more business from China's 500 million mobile Internet users.
China is the world's biggest smartphone market.
The strategic partnership with Leju will bring valuable real
estate information to users of Tencent's WeChat mobile app while
expanding its payment service to the Leju user base, Tencent
President Martin Lau said in a statement.
E-House provides services to China's property industry,
including online advertising and e-commerce, primary sales and
real estate investment management.
(Reporting By Matthew Miller; Editing by David Goodman)