Alibaba Group is reportedly now the majority shareholder in AutoNavi, a German maker of electronic navigation tools. The Chinese Internet giant’s investment gives it a 20 percent to 30 percent stake in AutoNavi, according to Sina Tech (link via Google Translate). The report cites multiple unnamed sources, but Alibaba is supposed to make an official announcement on Monday.
An Alibaba spokesperson told us “as a matter of company policy we do not comment on rumors and speculation of this nature.”
If the report is accurate, it would mean that Alibaba has displaced AutoNavi CEO Jun Hou as its largest shareholder. According to a SEC filing, Hou held 16.7 percent stake of the company’s shares as of Dec. 31, 2012.
AutoNavi is the most widely used mobile mapping service in China, with 45 percent market share according to Analysys International. Its mobile mapping app surpassed 100 million users in January.
The company provides data for iOS 6 and Google users in China, as well as Baidu’s mapping services.
The report of the Alibaba’s investment comes three months after AutoNavi vice president Qie Jian-jun said that his company wants to build a “map-based Taobao” by turning its maps service into an online-to-offline gateway for brick-and-mortar vendors. Taobao is Alibaba’s C2C e-commerce platform.
If it’s true that Alibaba has taken a majority stake in AutoNavi, that means it has filled a hole in its product roster. Unlike competitors Baidu and Tencent, Alibaba does not have its own standalone map service (the company’s Taobao map search service, which quietly launched last year, relies on merchant information from other Alibaba properties).