Four months after declaring its aim to become the “Chinese equivalent of OpenAI,” AI firm Guang Nian Zhi Wai recently made waves in China’s tech and finance sectors once again. On June 29, tech-driven retail giant Meituan announced it had acquired 100% equity in Guang Nian Zhi Wai for approximately $285.4 million. The acquisition includes $234 million in cash and about $50 million in assumed debt.
Despite its brief existence, Guang Nian Zhi Wai, founded by Meituan co-founder Wang Huiwen, has been a leading innovator in China’s Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) field. With the group’s net cash reported at $285 million, the acquisition by Meituan is nearly equivalent to returning the original amount of investor funds without gain or loss.
Before the acquisition, Wang Huiwen had taken leave for medical treatment. His absence, during a period of rapid growth for other AI competitors, put Guang Nian Zhi Wai at a disadvantage, making Meituan’s takeover a timely rescue.
Many media outlets have described the acquisition as “Wang saves Wang,” implying that the personal relationship between Wang Huiwen and Meituan CEO Wang Xing (no relation) played a significant role. However, for Meituan, the move is also driven by a pressing business need to use AGI technologies to enhance Meituan’s competitiveness and user experience.
Before the acquisition, Meituan had already begun researching large-scale models in-house. Reportedly, Wang Xing would personally inquire about the progress of the models every one to two weeks, and the highest decision-making body, S-team, also paid close attention to the AI exploration. Now with this new acquisition, Meituan’s AI research enters a new phase. Meituan can now access advanced AI technologies and big model research support to provide more customized, intelligent, and high-quality services to its customers and merchants. Meituan also expressed its support for the team to continue pushing its AI goal in the acquisition statement.
Competition in the field of large-scale pre-trained models in China has become increasingly fierce in recent months. According to incomplete statistics from Radar Finance, so far there have been 79 released models with a parameter scale of over 1 billion in China. As more major players including Baidu, Alibaba, and 360 have successively released their own large-scale model products, it was only a matter of time before Meituan joined the fray.
This acquisition signifies Chinese tech giants’ increasing interest in investing in AGI, but it has also raised some concerns. Some observers worry that the withdrawal of such an influential key player in China’s AI landscape is actually implying a cooling down of the AI large-model startup wave in China.
Whether this seemingly “win-win” acquisition is really profitable for Meituan will remain to be seen. According to digital technology expert Yuan Shuai, even if Meituan fails to bring in actual business growth through this acquisition, the technology itself still carries important implications in the AI field, as it can provide enterprises with more efficient and accurate data analysis and decision-making support. As such, it may still help Meituan maintain a competitive advantage in technology and lay the foundation for future development.