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Bertelsmann Asia Investments (BAI) is a testament to Bertelsmann’s longstanding commitment in China. Unlike many other funds, BAI sees itself as a strategic fund that takes a long-term view of its holdings. It invests in industries such as education, media, or technology where Bertelsmann already operates. With a strong team led by Annabelle Long, BAI fulfills a number of important strategic functions for Bertelsmann. China is already one of the world’s largest media markets and is growing rapidly. While traditional media are heavily regulated, the new media are a different story. Bertelsmann is using BAI to position itself in the Chinese market with moderate resource commitment, networking and accumulating valuable experience in the process. At the same time, a skilled local management team is in place on the ground. In 2008 BAI acquired a stake in China Distance Education Holdings (CDEL), an online training specialist. The company went public in August 2008 and is now the largest provider of its kind in China.
The fund’s second investment was in yoho.cn, a leading cross-media platform that focuses on youth lifestyle topics. In 2009 Yoho was included in the Chinese Ministry of Commerce’s list of the country’s ten most successful e-commerce startups. In November 2009, BAI acquired a shareholding in the operators of the Internet portal ifeng.com. The portal is one of the largest hubs in China and besides news and other content also offers a video streaming service (v.ifeng.com) and mobile services (ifeng mobile). BitAuto is a Chinese market leader for automotive online content and online marketing. BAI acquired a shareholding in the company in September 2009, and in November 2010 it was successfully floated on the New York Stock Exchange. The fund also has a shareholding in iClick, a leading specialist for online performance marketing in China and Southeast Asia based in Hong Kong. In performance marketing, advertisers only pay for actual user responses such as clicks or addresses provided. In addition to its direct investments, BAI also invested in three holding companies, Morningside, KeyTone Ventures and Innovation Works. Before BAI makes an investment, the framework conditions must be right, it must be clear that a long-term commitment will pay off, that the market and the business model are interesting for Bertelsmann, and that the company has what it takes to one day become a market leader.So BAI’s actions are determined by meaningful, strategic investments rather than growth at any price.
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