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Apple puts $1 billion into China's Uber rival Didi

Apple Inc. is betting $1 billion on China's homegrown competitor to Uber Technologies Inc., marking the technology giant's largest investment in a critical market at a time when its global fortunes are flagging.

The investment in Didi Chuxing Technology Co., announced late Thursday in California, came on the day that Apple briefly ceded its spot as the world's most valuable company to Google parent Alphabet Inc., a lingering effect of a quarterly earnings announcement that spooked investors about Apple's future. Among the worrying signs from its earnings report last month were indications of slowing sales in China where Apple had been posting booming sales.

Didi Chuxing -- which investors are valuing at over $25 billion, making it one of China's most valuable startups -- is locked in a fierce battle with UberChina to attract riders and investors in China's ride-share market.

Apple declined to elaborate on the motivation for the deal. However, the company has been working on building an autonomous electric vehicle with a team of more than 1,000 employees. Other ride-sharing services have shown an interest in autonomous vehicles. Uber has a large team of employees working on autonomous vehicle technology, while General Motors and Lyft are planning to start testing a fleet of self-driving taxis within a year.

The investment in Didi is an unusual one for Apple, which tends to prefer to buy small startups outright and absorb their technology into its product pipeline. This is the largest investment for Apple since it acquired headphones and streaming music service Beats Electronics for $3 billion in 2014, a deal that helped the company launch its Apple Music service. It is also unusual for Apple to participate in a fund-raising round for a startup.

The $1 billion investment barely makes a dent in the company's cash holdings of $233 billion.

The...


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