Hainan Airlines leads Series B financing of Uber China to boost its valuation at $7 billion (updated)

Front row from left to right: Uber's Travis Kalanick, HNA Group's Adam Tan, and Uber's Liu Zhen (Photo by Wendy Tang)
Front row from left to right: Uber’s Travis Kalanick, HNA Group’s Adam Tan, and Uber’s Liu Zhen (Photo by Wendy Tang)

In an effort to further expand Uber’s global business, Uber announced a strategic partnership with HNA Group, a parent company of Hainan Airlines, in Beijing on Monday, providing Chinese and global travelers with a door-to-door travel experience.

HNA Group was a leading investor in Uber China’s Series B funding back in October. Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick disclosed investors in the round of financing include Citic Securities and Taiping Insurance Group. The financing round boosted Uber China’s valuation to $7 billion.

In September, Kalanick told the media that Uber China received USD 1.2 billion from Chinese investors, including search giant Baidu.

The strategic partnership with Uber will help passengers traveling on HNA Group flights to be able to enjoy discounts using Uber to and from the airport, with promotions offered at HNA Group hotels globally.

HNA Group is also working on a deal with Swissport, the world’s largest provider of cargo handling services in the aviation industry. Airports operated by HNA Group or served by Swissport will also establish dedicated waiting areas for Uber driver partners and passengers.

HNA Group and Uber are exploring opportunities for cooperation on their mobile apps. In order to create a more seamless experience, travelers will be able to hail an Uber car directly from the Hainan Airlines mobile app.

Speaking at the Uber and HNA Group press conference, Adam Tan, President of HNA Group said his company serves about 400 million customers including air travelers, airport businesses, and also real estate businesses, all of which are potential Uber users.

“Once we finish the transaction with Swissport, we will have a presence in 40 countries and 172 airports, serving seven million high-end users. These are real people in a physical market that can contribute to Uber,” Tan said.

As a global brand, Uber’s Founder and CEO Travis Kalanick has said they are looking to partner with companies in the offline world who have a large global presence, and with services and products that make sense to tens of millions of Uber passengers every month.

Since HNA Group has airlines, hotels and logistics operations that primarily chauffeur travelers around different cities, Kalanick said Uber comes in once the travelers arrive in a city and need to go from point A to point B.

“The partnership is a natural one for the two companies, but even better for consumers who need a seamless experience to get around the world at large, whether between cities or the cities they are already in,” Kalanick said.

HNA Group and Uber have also partnered to work on financial services initiatives, including developing an online financing platform for the automotive sector, as well as related insurance products focused on auto leasing, insurance and payments.

In addition, the two partners announced in the weeks leading up to the Spring Festival holiday, Uber passengers across China will be able to book on-demand charter planes to their hometowns for the holiday.

When asked why Uber China hasn’t yet appointed a CEO, Kalanick said they hold high standards for the position and they continue to search for a suitable candidate.

Kalanick also pointed out that its biggest rival in China, Didi Chuxing, is spending USD 70 million to USD 80 million weekly on subsidizing its drivers. Uber is spending far less than that, according to Kalanick.

In November, Uber China said that their service had covered 21 cities in China and lead private car hailing market by taking up 35% market share.

Didi announced on the same day that its total bookings for 2015 reached 1.43 billion. It claims it has surpassed Uber, the six-year-old ride-hailing giant, which had one billion bookings as of Christmas 2015.

According to Chinese research firm Analysys International’s report in November, Didi Kuaidi leads China’s private car-hailing market with 83.2% market share, with rival Uber tailing behind at 16.2% and UCAR with 13.4%.

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