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Airtel to spend US$5B on networks; Samsung, LG to invest US$9.2B on smart tech

S&P Global Market Intelligence provides a roundup of recent investment deals and updates in the Asia-Pacific technology, media and communications sector.

TOP NEWS

* Bharti Airtel Ltd. is earmarking over 320 billion Indian rupees in the next two fiscal years for network expansion and to get an additional 3% to 4% in revenue market share, The Economic Times (India) reported Sept. 19, citing a senior executive. The Indian telco is allocating as much as 170 billion rupees for CapEx this fiscal year, the executive added.

* Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and LG Electronics Inc. will invest 10.5 trillion South Korean won in the local mobile phone and home appliance industries by 2020, Yonhap News Agency reported Sept. 27.

* Tencent Holdings Ltd.-backed Meituan Dianping, China's online restaurant review service, is reportedly close to securing a funding round of at least US$3 billion from investors including Capital Group, Bloomberg News reported Sept. 27. The deal, which "could be sealed within days," will drive the company's valuation to US$28 billion.

STARTUP FUNDING

* Royole Corp., a rollable display company, secured US$800 million in a series D financing round for research and development and to increase production and sales, China Money Network reported Sept. 27. Royole's primary business is rollable, curved screens and OLED technology.

* U.S.-based self-driving startup Drive.ai Inc. secured US$15 million in a new funding round from investors including GrabTaxi Holdings Pte. Ltd., TechCrunch reported Sept. 28. The additional funding would support plans to open an office in Singapore in the coming months.

* WeChat women's lifestyle channel Hi Better Me has raised tens of millions of Chinese yuan in its current funding round, with investors including Fashion Capital and DT Capital Partners, Yicai Global reported Sept. 22, citing online media outlet Jiemian News.

* Beijing-based artificial intelligence technology developer Yi+ on Sept. 21 said that it raised US$15 million in its series B funding. The investment, led by Haitong Securities, will be used for R&D and global expansion.

* Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial invested 400 million Chinese yuan into Yongon Bike, a bike-sharing service provider based in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, Caixin reported Sept. 20. Yongon has been expanding in small cities with a focus on government-backed public transportation projects, but with the investment Yongon plans to focus on serving paying users.

* SoftBank Group Corp.'s Vision Fund has contributed to a recent US$250 million funding round for Slack Technologies Inc., bringing the San Francisco-based messaging startup's valuation to about US$5.1 billion, the Financial Times (London) reported Sept. 17. SoftBank is likely to remain an investor until after the startup goes public, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield reportedly said, adding that the IPO may not happen until after 2018.

CAPITAL INVESTMENTS

* SK Group's memory chip unit SK Hynix will invest over 200 billion South Korean won to build an R&D center for NAND chips and future technologies, Yonhap News Agency reported Sept. 28.

* Chinese live streaming site Inke TV will invest 1 billion yuan to build a platform for professionally generated content, Tencent News reported Sept. 28. Vice President Ding Laibin said the company will set up targeted funds for live streaming content creation.

* Chinese online audio content platform Qingting FM finished a 1-billion-yuan funding round led by We Capital and Baidu Inc., Sohu reported Sept. 28. We Capital will also support content development with Qingting FM.

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.-backed Paytm Mall is in talks to raise up to 40 billion Indian rupees, people aware of the development told The Economic Times (India) on Sept. 27.

OTHER FUNDING

* California-headquartered Creative Artists Agency said Sept. 26 that Singapore-based sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings made an investment of an undisclosed sum in the company and that the capital will be used to fund acquisitions.

* Thailand's Ministry of Digital Economy and Society said that it expects 6 billion to 7 billion baht worth of investments in an Internet of Things institute at the Digital Park Thailand following the Digital Thailand Big Bang 2017 event, Krungthep Turakij reported Sept. 26.

* The city office of Busan and the Ministry of Science and ICT said on Sept. 18 that it will invest 6 billion South Korean won over the next three years to establish an unmanned video control system titled Cinema Robotics for the first time in the country. Converging robot arm technologies with information and communication technologies, the city plans to establish an infrastructure to create immersive virtual reality content.