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Trip.com launches VC firm to deepen travel industry investments

The latest example of the growing prominence of corporate venture capital in China.

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China’s largest online travel agency (OTA) Trip.com (NASDAQ: TCOM) on June 3 founded a wholly-controlled venture capital firm to further its investments in the travel industry, according to industry data provider Qichacha.

Dubbed Xiecheng Entrepreneurship Investment Company, the new investment arm of Trip.com is led by Vice President of Trip.com and Head of Investment Shen Jie. The Shanghai-based firm has a registered capital of RMB 100 million (USD 14.1 million).

In 2018, Shen said during a company conference that Trip.com usually invests in companies that have business synergies with it and it will do in-depth collaboration before making large investments. Liang Jianzhang, Trip.com’s founder, also underlined that the company only makes investments in the leisure industry, local media Pedaily wrote.

Since December 2010, Trip.com has invested in at least 56 companies publicly, mainly focusing on tourism-related sectors, Qichacha data shows. Investees include Airbnb-like house rental company Iyoujia, train station and airport service provider Dragonpass, and immigration consulting website Hinabian.

The company has also acquired Travix, an Amsterdam-headquartered travel service vendor, the company announced in April. In November 2019, it entered a strategic partnership with TripAdvisor, under which the duo set up a joint venture for global content and governance agreements, KrASIA reported.

Trip.com is the latest example of the growing prominence of corporate venture capital (CVC) in China. According to 2019 China Corporate Venture Capital Development Report, the CVC sector grew rapidly to USD 2.94 billion worth of funding in 2018, accounting for 17% of the total venture capital investments worldwide. Meanwhile tech giants including Tencent (HKEX: 0700), Alibaba (NYSE: BABA), and JD.com (NASDAQ: JD) ranked as the top three most active Chinese CVC investors by the number of investments.

Social media heavyweight Tencent in April launched a website for Tencent Investment, disclosing its far-flung investment portfolio. Per stats from research firm ITjuzi, Tencent has made at least 53 investments in 2020 so far, covering music, education, fitness, short-video, and beyond. Alibaba has added around 20 companies to its portfolio this year, including but not limited to firms in healthcare, fintech, logistics, and e-commerce sectors.