August 14, 2019 / 9:52 AM / 9 days ago

China's Meituan Dianping builds mapping service

BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Meituan Dianping (3690.HK), a Chinese online food delivery-to-ticketing firm, has started building a mapping service, with an aim to enter an area currently dominated by Alibaba’s (BABA.N) AutoNavi and Baidu (BIDU.O) Maps.

A spokeswoman for Meituan told Reuters that the company was working on such a project, after it advertised over a dozen positions on job hunting website Lagou.com on Tuesday for a new service it called “Meituan Maps”. The positions it is looking for range from data mining engineer to machine learning expert.

“We can confirm that Meituan is working on a mapping business,” the spokeswoman said, adding the company had recently hired a former Baidu Maps executive.

Meituan, a sort of a cross between U.S. discounting platform Groupon (GRPN.O) and online review firm Yelp (YELP.N), is a so-called super app offering many services such as hotel booking, movie ticketing, and a listing of local businesses.

It is among a breed of Chinese tech upstarts, alongside video-streaming app TikTok’s owner Bytedance and ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, that have emerged in recent years and are threatening the dominance of Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent.

Meituan recently surpassed search giant Baidu and e-commerce giant JD.com Inc (JD.O) in market capitalisation.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Meituan Maps was part of the firm’s location-based services platform and was aimed at improving navigation for the unit’s bike sharing, ride hailing and public transportation services.

AutoNavi and Baidu Maps are the two leading mapping apps in China, although others like Tencent (0700.HK) Maps also exist.

Telecom giant Huawei is also planning to launch a mapping service, Map Kit, in October, as it faces a potential U.S. ban on using Google Maps (GOOGL.O) in its smartphones overseas.

Meituan currently uses AutoNavi and Tencent Maps for its bike sharing and ride hailing services. Meituan’s local listing app Dazhong Dianping, dubbed as China’s Yelp, also embeds Baidu Maps and AutoNavi for users who need directions to restaurants or clubs they find on the Dazhong Dianping app.

Reporting by Yingzhi Yang and Brenda Goh; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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