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Apple partner Didi staring down possible $585 million loss in first half of year

By Stephen Silver

Chinese ride-hailing company Didi, backed by Apple to the tune of $1 billion, has struggled to grow and is bleeding cash in China amid competition and regulatory scrutiny.

According to Bloomberg, Didi Chuxing lost 4 billion yuan ($585 million) in the year's first six months. That figure is cited from "people familiar with the matter," and not from any kind of public earnings report.

In early 2016, Apple invested $1 billion in Didi Chuxing, and the following year the company opened an artificial intelligence lab in California. This was near Apple's reputed self-driving car lab, indicating that Didi Chuxing has a part to play in the future rollout of "Project Titan."

Google parent company Alphabet, shortly afterward, invested $1 billion in Lyft.

In April 2017, Tim Cook wrote a testimonial about Didi Chuxing president Jean Liu in Time magazine's Time 100 Most Influential People issue.

"In over 400 cities across China, Jean has also built a company that is dedicated to serving the community around it," Cook wrote. "Guiding Didi to this higher purpose, and giving back to the places where it does business, she shares my belief that companies can and should measure themselves by more than just the bottom line."

Didi Chuxing's problems should be familiar to anyone who has followed the story of its American counterpart Uber. While rated the world's second-most valuable startup, the Didi Chuxing has suffered financially due to handing out $1.7 billion in subsidies and discounts to customers. Like Uber, the Didi Chuxing has spent a lot of time fighting with government entities.

The company, which has never generated a profit, and has also faced bad press due to two deaths of passengers at the hands of Didi drivers. Founder/CEO Cheng Wei has vowed to overhaul the company's culture, just as former CEO Travis Kalanick did prior to his ouster last year. Didi Chuxing actually purchased Uber's China operation for $1 billion in 2016.

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