China’s Geely takes over Alibaba-backed smartphone maker

China’s Geely takes over Alibaba-backed smartphone maker

Bloomberg: Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., the satellite-to-automobile group controlled by billionaire Li Shufu, has purchased a majority stake in Chinese smartphone maker Meizu Technology Co., according to a Caixin report that cited an announcement from the State Administration of Market Regulation.

Geely unit Hubei Xingji Shidai Technology Co. bought a 79% interest in Meizu from Meizu’s founder and a unit of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the report, which didn’t give a value of the transaction, said on Tuesday. Speculation that Geely was in talks to acquire the mobile phone maker surfaced earlier this year.

For Geely, adding a smartphone maker to its stable comes as cars morph from mere forms of transport into electric, internet-connected and autonomous vehicles powered by highly sophisticated technology.

Xingji Shidai, which counts Li as its main investor, announced its entry into the mobile devices sector in September last year, setting out its intention to “focus on integrating global technologies and resources to develop premium smart devices including smart phones to global consumers.”

Mobile phones have evolved into mobile terminals and application platforms that “also act as a pathway to greater automotive applications,” Li said at the time. “There is a close connection in technologies within intelligent vehicle cockpits and smartphone software technologies.”

Indeed several large Chinese tech companies have entered into the autonomous and electric car space, with Xiaomi Corp. planning four EVs and eyeing mass production of automobiles in the first half of 2024. Baidu Inc. and Geely have meanwhile poured around $700 million into their electric car joint venture Jidu.

Alibaba invested in Meizu in hopes of staking out a spot in the lucrative smartphone arena, but the brand has never taken off due to aggressive competition from Xiaomi, Huawei Technologies Co. and Oppo. The Chinese e-commerce giant also hoped to encourage wider adoption of its YunOS operating system, though it’s unclear if Geely would gain access to that from the acquisition.

Geely earlier this month put its first satellites into space as it rolls out a celestial network to help it and other companies access and transmit data for autonomous driving.

Li has a net worth of about $19.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.