Baidu in talks to raise money for a standalone AI chip company


A woman walks past the Baidu booth at the China International Technology Fair in Shanghai.

STR | AFP | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China — Chinese search giant Baidu is in talks to raise money for a standalone artificial intelligence semiconductor company, a person with knowledge of the matter told CNBC.

The move is emblematic of an ongoing push among China’s biggest technology firms to boost their prowess in the chip sector. And for Baidu, it marks a further effort to diversify its business well beyond advertising.

Baidu’s chip company would be a subsidiary, with the search giant likely to be the majority shareholder, the person said. Venture capital firms GGV and IDG Capital are involved discussions to invest in Baidu’s chip firm, the source added. Both firms have extensive investments in China.

Baidu declined to comment when contacted by CNBC. IDG Capital was not immediately available for comment. Calls to GGV’s offices in Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing went unanswered.

Currently, Baidu has an in-house chip unit that has helped to develop its Kunlun semiconductors, designed to process huge amounts of data for artificial intelligence applications. But a standalone chip company is seen helping Baidu to better commercialize its technology, the source said.

The semiconductor business would aim to sell chips to customers in several industries including automakers, which are currently facing a global chip shortage.

A standalone chip maker could also tie into other parts of Baidu’s businesses, such as its driverless car software.

Diversification flurry

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