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Education

China's NetEase aims to list education unit in US and raise $300m

Internet company to beef up AI instruction as China scrambles to catch up with US

NetEase offers classes for children in Hangzhou, China. (Photo by Naoki Matsuda)

SHANGHAI -- Chinese internet company NetEase plans to list its education subsidiary public in the U.S. and raise $300 million as early as this year, according to reports, as Beijing attempts to make up ground with Washington in the high-tech arena.  

The initial public offering would be for Youdao, which develops and sells educational materials, including artificial intelligence courses for children. An IPO deal could value the company by as much as $2 billion, reported Bloomberg, citing sources close to the matter.

NetEase, which listed on the Nasdaq market in 2000, declined to comment on a possible IPO of its education subsidiary.

China lags behind the U.S. in the cultivation of engineers in such fields as AI. Some estimates peg the number of AI experts in China at about 50,000 compared with roughly 850,000 in the U.S.

This has prompted the Chinese government to make an all-out effort to nurture skilled workers in this arena. AI-related classes were introduced in elementary, middle and high schools in major cities such as Shanghai this year. By listing its education arm, NetEase aims to tap growth in this promising field.

NetEase's core business is the operation of a net portal. It is strong in other businesses as well, such as a game segment that competes with Tencent Holdings.

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