Baidu, China’s top search engine, is in the process of making one of the largest ever Internet takeovers in the country’s history, with a $1.9 billion purchase of 91 Wireless, an Internet app Store, from NetDragon, Reuters reported.
Apps in China are very popular because of slow Internet download speeds, and the number of active mobile users continues to rise. Apps are even more popular than mobile versions of websites.
More than 10 billion apps have been downloaded via the 91 Wireless marketplace, according to TechCrunch. It also develops their own apps for sale.
Purchasing 91 Wireless will also enable Baidu to work with the various app developers to promote their search offerings to users, as well as to compete with both Alibaba and Tencent.
With heavier competition pressuring Baidu in the search market, using this avenue to increase their search market share, which has been eroding over the past year, will be seen as a huge positive for Baidu.
91 Wireless had become so popular since its launch in 2007 that the owner, NetDragon, had considered spinning off 91 Wireless for its own IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, prior to this purchase. It is currently the third largest distributor of third-party apps in China.