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Business deals

SoftBank bets on Asia's travel market with investment in Klook

Vision Fund leads $225m funding round for Hong Kong-based activities booking startup

Klook said it would use the proceeds of the new funding round to expand in Asia, with a key focus on Japan as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaches (Photo courtesy of Klook).

TOKYO -- SoftBank Group's massive technology fund has led a $225 million investment round into Hong Kong-based online travel startup Klook, giving the company the firepower to fend off rivals in Asia's fast-growing activities booking market.

Existing investors Sequoia China, Matrix Partners, TCV and OurCrowd also participated in the round, Klook announced on Tuesday. Its previous funding round last August, when it raised $200 million, valued Klook at $1 billion, but it declined to comment on the latest valuation.

Founded in 2014, Klook offers online booking services for local tours and other activities, a fast-growing corner of the travel industry that has yet to be dominated by the big online travel agents. The global activities market is expected to grow nearly 50% from 2015 to be worth $183 billion in 2020, according to travel research company Phocuswright.

Klook said it provides 100,000 offerings in more than 270 destinations. Some observers say its growth has been driven by spending on marketing and discounts to attract users. Rivals include Taiwan-based KKday, which is backed by the investment arms of Japan's Line and China's Alibaba Group Holding.

Klook said it would use the proceeds of the funding to expand in Asian markets. One key focus is Japan, where it said it "will deepen its investments ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo" by targeting both foreign and Japanese tourists.

Chief Operating Officer and co-founder Eric Gnock Fah told the Nikkei Asian Review that the company plans to open new offices in addition to existing ones in Tokyo and Osaka. It will also invest in technology and "double down on user acquisition to bring in more visitors to Japan," he added.

Lydia Jett, a partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said Klook "has seen great success in scaling its business across different geographies and cultures."

The near $100 billion Vision Fund is funded by Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi as well as Japanese technology group SoftBank's own capital. It is known for making large investments in leading technology companies and driving them to expand aggressively. In travel-related industries, it led a $1 billion funding round in Indian hotel startup Oyo in 2018.

The Vision Fund is also considering an investment into GetYourGuide, a Germany-based online activities booking agent, according to local media reports. A SoftBank spokesperson said it was aware of the reports but that nothing had been officially decided.

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