Bye bye YY, Baidu cancels acquisition of livestream platform

3 years after the initial announcement, Baidu’s acquisition of the YY Live platform from JOYY Inc. has fallen through and it has taken steps to cancel the sale.

On 16 November 2020, Baidu CEO Robin Li Yanhong’s birthday, the tech giant signed an agreement with JOYY to acquire its livestream business in China, specifically the YY Live platform, through its affiliated company Moon SPV Limited for 3.6 billion USD. However, since not all requirements for the agreement were met before the deadline of 31 December 2023, Moon exercised its rights to terminate the agreement and the sale was cancelled.

JOYY also issued a statement saying that the sale itself was “substantially completed on 8 February 2021, with certain matters remaining to be completed in the future”. JOYY states that it is seeking legal advice and “will consider all options at its disposal”.

Indeed, according to reports, Baidu had taken over some parts of YY Live. YY has been using Baidu’s office automation system and displaying the Baidu logo at its Guangzhou office. YY employees had even been inducted as “Baidu employees”. Many pundits are reportedly “surprised” that the sale of YY to Baidu still hasn’t been completed.

The South China Morning Post reports that analyses mostly point to Baidu trying to focus more on its AI development, such as the large language model ERNIE Bot. Other possible reasons include fierce competition in the livestream market that YY Live has been facing 3 years after the initial agreement, as well as “tougher regulations” on the industry. Livestreaming has changed as Douyin and Kuaishou dominate the market and e-commerce integration is also catching up.

Withdrawing from the acquisition of the YY platform and focusing on AI means that Baidu will approach e-commerce differently. Baidu launched Baidu Youxuan last May, an e-commerce brand that integrated search, livestream, video and e-shops as a “smart platform”. Having launched this e-commerce-focusing platform with livestreaming as one of the elements, it would seem that Baidu has less need for a dedicated platform than 3 years ago.


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