China’s big names club together for new auto site

21 Jun 2017

Yixin Group, Bitauto’s vehicle financing arm, launched a new transaction/finance site for autos in partnership with JD Finance, and with the financial backing of the “big four” (Baidu, Tencent, Bitauto, JD.com), which together coughed up $1 billion U.S. for the project.

Yixin Group already operates vehicle-financing site Daikuan.com.

The new site of Yixin Group and JD Finance is called Car.baitiao.com. It is the offspring of two of China’s fastest growing fintech platforms. JD Finance appeared in tenth position on KPMG’s 2016 Fintech 100 Global ranking.

In turn, 2-year-old Yixin secured 4 billion RMB in May, in a funding round that included Tencent, Bitauto, China Orient Asset Management, China Orient Asset Management, and SF Express founder Wei Wang (which we reported on here).

Via the partnership, Yixin is taking part in JD.com’s largest annual sale – the so-called “6.18” sale – which celebrates the platform’s launch back on June 18, 2003.

Yixin has been an incredible, short-term success story. It was launched in January 2015 as an automotive industry news app on Tencent’s QQ platform. The official Daikuan.com website was only launched in January 2016, at which time it expanded into auto financing and transactions.  

In 2016, Yixin handled more than 200,000 b-to-c transactions, and it is aiming for 400,000 to 500,000 in 2017. It claims over 100 million users living in 300 cities in China. Yixin currently offers in-house financing and facilitates credit extension for users by banks, such as China Minsheng Bank, Bank of Communications and Qishang Bank.

JD.com is China’s second-ranked e-commerce site and a rival of powerhouse Alibaba (NYSE: BABA). Just as JD.com and Alibaba are going head-to-head in e-commerce, JD Finance is now taking on Alibaba’s massive fintech arm, Ant Financial.

In March this year, JD.com announced the spinning off of JD Finance and sale of its entire 68.6-percent stake in the company to an unnamed buyer for 14.3 billion RMB ($2.1 billion U.S.). The deal was set to be completed by mid-2017 – when the mystery backer will also be named. To date, no new information has come to light.   

With JD.com getting 40 percent of future pretax profit, or the right to swap this for 40 percent of JD Finance’s equity, JD Finance will likely remain a priority for its former parent. Even after the sale, JD.com expressed its intention to make JD Finance one of the top three fintech companies in the world by 2020.

But, it’s not all moonshine and roses

Yao Junhong, founder and CEO of Souche.com, a leading SaaS provider in the used-auto sector and growing presence in auto financing and transactions, has started a public spat with Yixin Group.

In an interview published on Qianlong.com, Yao was asked about Bitauto’s financing platform. He replied, “I don’t see what they have that creates value. They just have a lot of cash and are issuing a lot of debt… they’re accumulating a lot of agents as well, but this isn’t anything more than grabbing someone else’s rice bowl. When you look at Guazi [ershouche], their value is wrapped up in their system, but where is Yixin’s value?… Any enterprise must create sufficient value for society, but creating value can’t just be a question of robbing others.”

Yao Junhong

Yao (photo) is known for being relatively open with the Chinese media and is considered something of a celebrity entrepreneur at this point. So, it’s unlikely that his comments came from a place of ignorance, although they aren’t very coherent.

He seems to intimate that Yixin is getting ahead of itself, and not sufficiently understanding its market, which may be related to Yixin’s raising of billions of RMB by issuing asset-backed securities (ABS) (we reported on here). 

Earlier this year, Hangzhou-based Souche launched Tangeche.com, its own vehicle-financing business targeting young consumers with low down payments and extended repayment periods. The site is a joint venture with Ant Financial, the fintech division of fellow Hangzhou-based company, Alibaba (NYSE: BABA).

The comments should probably be read as part of the wider proxy war between Ant Financial and JD Finance, which backs Yixin Group.

Ant Financial led the November 2016 Series C investment round in Souche, investing $100 million U.S.. Last month, Souche completed a $180 million U.S. Series D financing round, led by Warburg Pincus (which we reported on here). Following this, Souche announced that RMB 300 million has been earmarked for the promotion of the Tangeche brand.

It has been reported that Tangeche advertisements are blanketing major Chinese cities right now, as well as appearing frequently for users of WeChat Moments, the Snapchat clone.

Souche has already completed Series D financing worth $180 million U.S., led by Warburg Pincus.

Founded in 2012, Souche delivers marketing and business management systems to more than 80 percent of used-auto dealerships in China. In 2016, the platform reached a trading volume of 51.3 million units and a transaction volume of 69.7 billion RMB ($10 million U.S.).

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Tom Marling

Tom is a PhD candidate in Chinese History at Hong Kong Baptist University, and former PR consultant in Mainland China. He joined the AIM Group in 2016 as a writer/analyst.