April 9, 2018 / 3:36 AM / in 6 months

China's SenseTime closes $600 mln funding led by Alibaba

HONG KONG, April 9 (Reuters) - Chinese facial recognition firm SenseTime Group Ltd said it has closed a $600 million funding round led by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, extending the billion-dollar valuation of the artificial intelligence (AI) startup.

SenseTime closed the series-C fundraising which also attracted investors including Singapore state fund Temasek Holdings (Private) Ltd and Chinese e-commerce company Suning.Com Co Ltd, it said in a statement on Monday.

Dual-based in Beijing and Hong Kong, SenseTime develops applications for facial recognition, video analysis and other areas including autonomous driving. Existing investors include U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc.

SenseTime said its latest funding set a world record for the amount raised in a single round by an AI firm, and that it was now the world’s most valuable AI company. It did not provide its current valuation.

Bloomberg reported that the round valued SenseTime at over $3 billion. A SenseTime spokeswoman said that figure did not reflect the current valuation as the firm has moved into the C+ round of fundraising.

She declined to disclose SenseTime’s current valuation due to ongoing fundraising.

Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai said in a statement, “We are especially impressed by their R&D capabilities in deep learning and visual computing. Our business at Alibaba is already seeing tangible benefits from our investments in AI and we are committed to further investment.”

SenseTime in July raised $410 million in series-B funding led by China’s CDH Investments and state-backed fund Sailing Capital, which valued it at over $1.5 billion. (Reporting by Sijia Jiang Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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