Tencent, JD.com eye TV business with investment in cash-strapped LeEco unit
Chinese internet giants Tencent and JD.com will invest in the television-making unit of the embattled entertainment conglomerate LeEco to complement their content and online retail strategies.
Tencent and JD.com intend to invest 300 million yuan (US$48 million) apiece to each receive a 2.5554 per cent stake, according to a document filed to Shenzhen Stock Exchange on Wednesday by the unit’s parent company Le.com, the Shenzhen-listed arm of debt-ridden LeEco.
Chinese television maker TCL and home appliance retailer Suning were also among the investors, making investment offers of the same size, according to the filing.
After the new fund injections Le.com will remain the biggest shareholder of the unit, officially known as Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp, with a 33 per cent stake.
The debt-ridden Le.com encountered cash-flow problems in late 2016 stemming from an over-expansion of its business into smartphones, sports entertainment and even electric cars. In July last year Sun Hongbin, chairman of the country’s fourth largest developer Sunac China, replaced LeEco founder Jia Yueting as chairman in an effort to turn the indebted company around. After committing more than 16 billion yuan in investments and loans last year, Sun stepped down last month after he refused to make further financial commitments.
The new funding will ease the company’s tight cash flow situation and help reactivate LeEco’s TV making business, according to the latest announcement. In a separate filing on April 3 Le.com disclosed that continued operations would be hard to maintain without new investments.
The investment will accelerate JD’s online sales done via TV screens, according to a JD.com spokesman. JD.com, China's second largest e-commerce company, launched a JD Smart Screen Alliance last year that allows smart television owners to shop on JD.com right from their screens.
Tencent declined to comment on the LeEco investment announcement.
Tencent’s LeEco deal follows a March 30 announcement on cooperation between the two companies on licensed content and smart home hardware. Under that agreement licensed television content from Tencent will be streamed on Le.com, with the two companies splitting revenue generated from membership fees and advertising.
Tencent Video, the company’s video unit, had 62.6 million paying subscribers as of the end of February, compared with 43 million in September. Tencent recently teamed up with Chinese search engine Baidu in a 617 million yuan investment in Pear Video, an online short video platform and content producer that counts the listed unit of state media People’s Daily as a shareholder.