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Tencent invests in Chinese nip-tuck app in US$50m round

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SoYoung Technology (Beijing) Co, the developer of the application, has attracted Tencent Holdings Ltd in a financing round of US$50 million, according to a statement from the company on Monday.

[BEIJING] Not happy with your nose and want to check out the nearest plastic surgery centre? There's an app for that in China and it lets you share before and after photos with other users.

SoYoung Technology (Beijing) Co, the developer of the application, has attracted Tencent Holdings Ltd in a financing round of US$50 million, according to a statement from the company on Monday. The funds will be used to develop cloud computing technology as the app considers loan-financing to help younger people get surgery.

The Beijing-based company, which has seen 10 million downloads of its SoYoung app, is trying to enlist 200 clinics and thousands of plastic surgeons to its platform within three years as the industry in China faces less policy restrictions than traditional medical procedures, such as heart operations. It's trying to tap an aesthetic medical services market forecast to double to US$11.3 billion over the next five years, according to a prospectus from Union Medical Healthcare Ltd. 

"In areas like cosmetic surgery, e-commerce platforms can help make pricing and competition more transparent," said chief executive officer Jin Xing. "SoYoung is positioned to become the first successful company based on an online health care business model."

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Tencent, Asia's biggest Internet company, will work with SoYoung to boost app downloads by directing it to targeted users, Mr Jin said. SoYoung receives nearly 60,000 orders for non- invasive plastic surgery each month, according to the company. Tencent didn't respond to requests for comment.

Out of every 10 women who conduct non-invasive procedures in Beijing and Shanghai, one chooses to use SoYoung, according to the company. Around 60,000 Chinese visit South Korea for treatment every year, Yumeng Wang, an HSBC analyst, wrote in a February report.

The growing popularity of cosmetic surgery may warrant closer scrutiny.

"Aesthetics treatments occupies that grey area between real health care and consumer health care in China, so you will find people cutting corners," Florian Then, a Shanghai-based partner at McKinsey & Co Inc, said by phone. "In China, when it comes to the Internet, usually you have something growing really big and then the regulators come and take a look to see if they should start doing something."

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