Chinese AI provider Megvii Technology Ltd, better known for its Face ++ facial recognition brand, has raised $750m in its latest funding round, bringing its valuation to more than $4bn as, according to Reuters, it prepares to go to IPO later this year.
The round was led by the Chinese state bank's private equity arm, Bank of China Group Investment (BOCGI) Ltd, who invested $200m. Macquarie Group, ICBC Asset Management (Global) Co and, according to Reuters, an unnamed wholly-owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority also participated.
Alibaba was also reported to be a significant investor in the round having backed the firm's AI efforts since last year. Megvii has provided facial recognition technology for Alibaba's online payment unit Alipay.
Megvii will use the capital to strengthen its technology capabilities in deep learning, as well as in accelerating the commercialization of its AI solutions. It also said it would focus on recruiting talent and expanding globally, but declined to comment on its further fundraising plans or discuss its strategy to go public in Hong Kong.
Mega-funding rounds like Megvii's highlights China's aim to become a world leader in AI. The country surpassed the US in AI investment for the first time in 2017 when it claimed 48% of all AI funding rounds, according to CB Insights, while the Allen Institute for AI revealed in March that China was on track to eventually surpass the US in the publication of AI research papers.
In 2017, China announced it was embarking on an unparalleled effort to master AI in an attempt to be the global leader by 2030. It has since softened its approach, calling for a friendlier approach to AI development with more international collaboration last year.