Mainland China’s two largest taxi-booking apps – each backed by respective internet giants Alibaba and Tencent – have today announced a merger in the wake of industry leader Uber's aggressive expansion in the Chinese market. Alibaba-controlled Kuaidi Dache and Tencent-invested Didi Dache, which together are valued at around US$6 billion, did not disclose details of their respective shares in the merger. But Didi, the larger of the two based on user numbers, reportedly owns a bigger stake of between 52 to 55 per cent. Didi chief executive Cheng Wei and Kuaidi head Lv Chuanwei will be co-CEOs of the new company. “The new company after the merger will be an important provider in the global mobile transport sector,” Kuaidi and Didi said in a joint announcement on Valentine’s Day. Despite the merger, the two companies, erstwhile fierce rivals, will retain their respective brands and independent operations, they said. The development comes after leading taxi-booking provider Uber, based in the US, secured Baidu’s backing in December to help it expand in China, one of the largest markets for mobile transport services in the world. Baidu agreed to buy an undisclosed minority stake in the US company. Uber is valued at a hefty US$40 billion. Didi said in a report last month that it had 150 million users as of last year, with maximum daily transactions of 12 million. Kuaidi is estimated to have nearly 80 million users. Only a year earlier, Kuaidi and Didi were locked in an expensive battle for market share, pouring an estimated 1 billion yuan (HK$1.27 billion) each last year on subsidising taxi drivers and passengers in order to attract more users. Kuaidi and Didi, which both launched in 2012, have been offering taxi-booking services in more than 300 cities in China, including Hong Kong. Last year they launched a range of luxury-car-hailing services aimed at high-end customers. Cheng said in the announcement that, in just three years of operations, such booking services had changed the Chinese transport sector by maximising resource usage. “If any [firm in China’s] internet sector is going to go global, mobile transport has the most hope,” said Lv. “After the merger, we will consolidate our technology, human resources, make better products, improve our overall competitiveness, and enhance the mobile transport industry’s development.” The merger marks Alibaba and Tencent’s second joint venture after they set up Zhong An Online Property Insurance with Ping An, one of China’s largest insurers, in 2013.