The Baidu headquarters in Beijing pictured on July 22, 2010
Shanghai (AFP) - China's Wanda Group, headed by the country's richest man, is joining Internet giants Baidu and Tencent to set up an e-commerce platform costing more than $800 million, it said Friday.
The three Chinese companies will initially invest five billion yuan ($813 million) in the project, Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin told a news conference in Shenzhen, adding their total funding could reach 20 billion yuan within five years.
Wanda will hold a 70 percent stake in the joint venture, while Baidu and Tencent will take 15 percent each, he added.
China's online shopping market is dominated by Alibaba, the Internet behemoth that is planning a huge US flotation, but Wanda denied the new platform was intended to challenge existing e-commerce operators.
The new entity aims to integrate Wanda's offline retail business with search, location and communication services offered by Baidu and Tencent to build an online-to-offline (O2O) platform, a Wanda statement said.
Wang is China's richest man with a net worth of $16 billion and owns 75 department stores, 85 shopping plazas and 51 five-star hotels, according to publisher Forbes.
His private conglomerate bought US cinema chain AMC in 2012 and last year acquired British yacht maker Sunseeker.
Baidu operates a Chinese version of Google while Tencent owns the country's most popular messaging app WeChat, which had 438 million monthly active users as of June.
"O2O could be the biggest cake in the e-commerce area but we haven't seen any single O2O platform," Wang said at the news conference, according to an online transcript. "In that regard, there's an equal opportunity for all."
Wanda expects the venture to attract more than 40 million customers this year, and surpass 100 million next year.