Chinese AI chip maker Horizon Robotics raises $600 million from SK Hynix, others

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese chip maker Horizon Robotics said on Wednesday it had raised $600 million in its latest funding round, bringing its valuation to $3 billion, amid a push from Chinese companies and the government to boost the semiconductor industry.

The fundraising round was led by South Korean chip maker SK Hynix Inc and several “first-tier” Chinese automakers, while other participants included China Oceanwide Capital, Citic Securities’ One-Belt-One-Road Fund, and Minsheng Capital, Horizon said in a statement on its website.

The investment comes as Beijing and Washington continue to spar over technology policy, fueling Chinese policymaker’s desire to become less reliant on American technology.

Horizon expected “breakthroughs” in the coming year for automotive-grade processor architecture, and third-generation processor architecture, a company spokeswoman said.

In November, the Financial Times reported that Horizon Robotics was raising up to $1 billion, which would lift its valuation to $3 billion to $4 billion.

That same month, the company said it had signed a “cooperative agreement” with South Korean telecommunications company SK Telecom. SK Telecom and SK Hynix share the same parent company, SK Group.

Horizon Robotics specializes in making artificial intelligence (AI) powered chips for automobiles and cameras.

Founder and CEO Yu Kai once led the autonomous driving unit of Baidu Inc, China’s leading search engine.

Horizon has worked with Audi to develop hardware and software that helped the German carmaker receive its test license for autonomous driving on public roads in Wuxi, China.

China’s tech sector currently relies heavily on imported chips. Beijing, under its “Made in 2025” policy, has called for more self-reliance in the sector. Several companies, in addition to Horizon, have been at the forefront of this push.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Stephen Coates