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Temasek-backed Chinese travel site aims to raise up to US$300m: sources

[HONG KONG] A Chinese travel website backed by Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings hopes to raise up to US$300 million in a new funding round that it hopes to value the firm at US$2 billion to US$2.5 billion, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Mafengwo, or "wasps' nest" in Chinese, is an online community for Chinese tourists where they share travel tips and shop for bespoke travel products.

The company hopes to use the fresh funds to acquire better tourism resources and products and better monetise its current travel content, one of the sources, who could not be identified because the information is confidential, told Reuters on Friday.

The fundraising amount and the company's valuation could change depending on market appetite, according to the two sources. Mafengwo has been in talks with potential investors for at least a couple of months, they said.

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Mafengwo did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The company raised US$133 million in December in its series D fundraising round from new investors, including US private equity fund General Atlantic, travel sector investment firm Ocean Link, Temasek, Yuantai Investment and Hopu Investments, as well as existing investors - Capital Today, Qiming Venture and Hillhouse Capital Group.

Mafengwo and a number of customised travel services providers in China, such as Qyer, are gaining popularity as Chinese people are spending more on domestic and international travel.

The China National Tourism Administration reported 4.57 trillion yuan (S$911.8 billion) in domestic tourism revenues for 2017, up 16 per cent from 2016. China's international travel revenues amounted to US$123.4 billion, up 3 per cent from 2016.

More individual tourists used mobile phone apps to book hotels or purchase travel products in the past year, according to the administration's statistics.

Mafengwo said at its previous fundraising it had 100 million active monthly users, 85 per cent of whom came from its mobile app. The website had more than 135,000 travel articles posted by users every month and expected its 2017 sales from individual travel products to exceed 9 billion yuan.

Users can book transportation and tours, order visa application services and buy travel insurance from Mafengwo. The website also pays some users to write travel blogs.

REUTERS