By Sijia Jiang and Julie Zhu
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese facial recognition technology developer SenseTime Group Ltd has tripled its worth in less than a year after a funding round, led by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, valued it at about $4.5 billion, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The fundraising comes during a government push to make China an international leader in artificial intelligence (AI) by 2025, by which time it aims to grow core AI industries’ value to 400 billion yuan ($63.33 billion).
SenseTime raised $600 million in its series-C funding round having attracted investors including Chinese e-commerce company Suning.Com Co Ltd and Singapore state fund Temasek Holdings (Private) Ltd [TEM.UL], it said in a statement on Monday.
The company did not disclose its valuation, but said it is now the world’s most valuable AI platform. It also said it set a world record for the amount raised in a single funding round by an AI firm.
SenseTime was valued at $1.5 billion in July after it raised $410 million in its series-B funding round, led by China’s CDH Investments and state-backed fund Sailing Capital.
The two people who disclosed the current valuation declined to be identified as the matter was private. A SenseTime spokeswoman declined to comment on the valuation as the firm has moved into the series-C+ round of fundraising.
Dual-based in Beijing and Hong Kong, SenseTime develops applications for facial recognition, video analysis and other areas including autonomous driving. Existing investors include U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc.
It is enjoying fast growth as both the private and public sectors upgrade to advanced technologies. It is engaged in as many as 14 sectors, and lists various police departments across China as major clients.
Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai said in the statement, “We are especially impressed by their R&D capabilities in deep learning and visual computing. Our business at Alibaba is already seeing tangible benefits from our investments in AI and we are committed to further investment.”
(Reporting by Sijia Jiang and Julie ZhuEditing by Christopher Cushing)