July 17, 2018 / 9:41 AM / in 3 months

UPDATE 1-China's Didi gets $500 mln funding from Booking.com parent

* No details of investment given in statement

* Didi is currently valued at $56 bln

* Chinese firm has aggressively expanded internationally (Adds details from press release, context)

BEIJING, July 17 (Reuters) - Chinese ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing has received a $500 million investment from U.S. travel firm Booking Holdings Inc, in a boost for its aggressive plan to enter new markets outside of China.

The two firms announced the investment in a joint statement on Tuesday but its details were not disclosed. Didi, which is expected to launch an initial public offering some time, is currently valued at $56 billion.

Booking Holdings, which changed its name from Priceline Group Inc earlier this year, will allow users in its apps to hail Didi cars as part of the agreement, they said.

The new funds come as Didi is expanding heavily into several new overseas markets, where it hopes to challenge U.S. ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc.

The company has recently launched services in Mexico, Australia and Japan, fueled by a $4 billion funding round in December that was earmarked for new markets as well as artificial intelligence (AI).

It has also invested in a handful of Uber competitors in other markets, including Brazil’s 99, India’s Ola, Singapore’s Grab and U.S.-based Lyft.

Booking Holdings, which is currently valued at over $97 billion, oversees some of the world’s most popular travel booking sites including Bookings.com, Agoda.com, KAYAK and Priceline.com.

Didi users will also have access to Booking Holdings’ services through Didi, the Chinese company said.

China’s travel booking market is already heavily dominated by local firms, including Ctrip.com International Ltd, which earlier this year signaled its intention to enter the ride-hailing market, posing a potential challenge to Didi.

Booking Holdings has users and partners in close to 220 countries, while a large majority of Didi’s 550 million users are in China. (Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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