Chinese carpooling app Dida in partnership talks with Uber: investor

BEIJING (Reuters) - An early investor in Chinese carpooling app Dida Pinche said he has held talks with U.S. ride-hailing app Uber Technologies Inc to help grow Dida in a market 99 percent controlled by Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache.

Andy Zhang, chief financial officer of Dida investor Bitauto Holdings Ltd, told Reuters late last week that he met with Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick in Beijing to discuss possible investment or tie-ups.

A spokeswoman for Uber declined to comment on the matter.

Investing in Dida could give Uber a second avenue into a rapidly growing Chinese market for mobile ride-hailing services. A tie-up would also help it dent the near monopoly of Didi and Kuaidi, which last month announced a $6 billion merger.

Ridesharing apps have had a troubled start to life, with regulators in Beijing and other cities across the world banning apps that earn revenue from drivers who do not hold commercial licenses. That has not stopped them attracting huge investment from Internet giants such as Tencent Holdings Ltd and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Dida does not collect revenue - unlike Didi, Kuaidi and Uber - though it aims to monetize its app eventually. At present, it matches drivers and passengers who contribute toward fuel and parking, for instance, making costs roughly half that of a taxi.

Dida CEO George Song declined to comment on talks with potential partners, but said Dida is seeking a third round of investment. It raised $10 million in its first round and earlier this year closed a second, led by car sales platform Bitauto.

Song said Dida, which has clocked 2 million users in 8 cities since its May launch, would be open to investment from taxi or professional car hailing apps such as Uber.

“They have a relatively clear segmentation of customers and drivers,” Song said. “Overall, this is a different market.”

Additional reporting by Gerry Shih; Editing by Christopher Cushing