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Chinese search engine Baidu applies for banking license

BaidoChinese largest search engine provider Baidu has formed a partnership to apply for a private banking license. This is seen as Baidu’s plan to shift from acting as a store front for money market funds to a certified financial institution.Baidu and other Chinese Internet companies such as Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding have offered wealth management products since last year. They have attracted millions of investors thanks to interest rates on consumer deposits that are higher than those offered by banks, which are subject to a cap of 3.3% for one-year savings. Chief executive of Baidu Robin Li said the company is now applying for multiple banking licenses, including payment, but because it is still in the process of applying it is not convenient to reveal too much. E-commerce leader Alibaba kick-started China’s online finance industry with the high-yield Yu’e Bao money market fund, which has amassed 400 billion yuan ($65.38 billion) in assets under management in less than eight months. Baidu and social networker Tencent followed suit, drawing the ire of China’s banks who are lobbying to introduce curbs on the growth of online funds offered by non-banks.

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