Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi plans U.S. IPO in 2018: source

(Reuters) - Ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing, Uber Technologies Inc’s main rival in China, is working toward an initial public offering in the United States that would likely take place in 2018, a person with knowledge of the plan said on Monday.

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The Apple Inc-backed firm is valued at around $25 billion and its stock market listing would be the most high-profile by a Chinese company in the United States since Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's BABA.N IPO two years ago.

Didi has ruled out a stock market flotation in China, said the person, who declined to be identified as the discussions about a listing were private. There are nearly 800 companies waiting to get regulatory approval for an IPO in China, making it hard to predict when a listing might happen.

A Didi spokeswoman in Beijing said the company currently had no IPO plan.

The company, which dominates the ride-sharing market in China, was formerly known as Didi Kuaidi and was formed last year from the merger of two companies backed separately by e-commerce giant Alibaba and social network firm Tencent Holdings Ltd 0700.HK.

Bloomberg earlier reported that Didi was targeting a New York listing as soon as next year. But the person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters a 2017 listing would be too early.

Didi is currently seeking to raise $3 billion from investors in its latest funding round, which includes an investment of $1 billion from Apple AAPL.O. It had originally planned to raise $2 billion, but hiked its target after Apple's investment, the person added.

Company President Jean Liu met with Apple CEO Tim Cook in Beijing on Monday.

The company has raised about $6.3 billion including funding rounds before and after it became a merged company, according to research firm CB Insights.

Both Didi and Uber’s [UBER.UL] Chinese arm have been spending heavily to subsidize rides and gain market share, increasing the need for them to seek new funding.

Didi completes more than 11 million rides a day, according to the company. Apple’s Chief Executive Tim Cook said the investment in Didi would help the U.S. firm better understand the critical Chinese market.

Reporting by Elizo Barreto and Sangameswaran S; Editing by Lisa Jucca and Edwina Gibbs