Busy Alibaba Puts $1.2B Into Youku Tudou, Starts a Mobile Search Company With UCWeb

Alibaba, which is gearing up for what could be the largest IPO in history, is having a particularly active quiet period. The Chinese e-commerce company today put $1.22 billion into video site Youku Tudou, for an 18.5 percent stake.

For Alibaba, Youku Tudou is part of a string of bets on content and distribution that would broaden its influence across all sorts of non-commerce types of Chinese Internet usage. In the entertainment space, other recent investments include Wasu and ChinaVision.

Separately, Alibaba today set up a joint venture with UCWeb — the leading Chinese mobile browser, in which Alibaba has a significant stake — to build a new mobile search engine called Shenma.

The bet is that a mobile-first approach to search may help the two stymie Chinese search leader Baidu on mobile.

The new search engine won’t be starting from scratch. UCWeb said its browser already helps direct six billion monthly mobile search queries, and Alibaba services like AliPay, Taobao and Tmall will be integrated in Shenma from the start.