Didi buys 99 Taxis, igniting fight with Uber in Latin America

Didi Chuxing buys Brazilian ride-hailing firm, 99

Chinese e-taxi giant Didi Chuxing has confirmed earlier reports that it's acquiring leading Brazilian ride-hailing company 99.

Founded in 2012 and formerly known as 99Taxis, 99 is Brazil's Uber Technologies Inc.

Brazil is an important market for Uber, and Didi wants to compete with Uber there head on. The South American country is home to 17 million Uber users and 500,000 drivers, the company has said, making it Uber's third largest market. "Globalisation is a top strategic priority for Didi", founder and CEO Cheng Wei said in a statement announcing the purchase, adding that the company would continue to seek "diversified global operations and partnerships".

Didi has not disclosed the terms of the 99 acquisition, but the New York Times reported the deal (paywall) to be worth around $600 million.

Didi is bolstering its global presence in a major ride-hail market: Brazil. It was first reported by TechCrunch. Its global ambitions were finally laid bare when it said December 21 that its latest round would in part be dedicated to its worldwide expansion.

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Didi became a strategic investor in 99 in January 2017. An all-out acquisition would be an interesting, and pretty aggressive, turn for Didi, which has to date mostly focused on investing in comparable regional startups rather than buying them outright.

Didi, the world's biggest ride-hailing company, has a history of battling Uber, forcing it to pull out of China.

Didi itself isn't shy about hinting that this is exactly what its intentions may well be.

"With enhanced investments in AI capabilities and smart transportation solutions, we will continue to advance the transformation of global transportation and automotive industries through diversified worldwide operations and partnerships", Cheng added.

"The investment marks a significant next step of DiDi's global strategy", the company said in a statement.

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