Alibaba launches bid for map firm

<p>Alibaba is trying to buy Chinese map firm AutoNavi.</p>

Alibaba has launched a bid for Chinese map firm AutoNavi as the ecommerce company continues to expand ahead of an expected flotation in the US.

A bid for 72 per cent of the company has been put in by Alibaba that values AutoNavi at about $1.6 billion (£976 million). Alibaba already owns the rest of the firm.

Investors are expecting Alibaba to float on a stock market in the US at some point in 2014, with the valuation of the firm estimated to be around the £60 billion mark.

Alibaba has launched a series of audacious acquisitions over the last couple of years and completing the purchase of AutoNavi would give it even more control in the sector.

"What it enables Alibaba greater access to is technology and insight into the mapping sector. Full control would grant more control over design and product for AutoNavi's products and services," a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Alibaba is currently publicly owned, but a stock market flotation is likely to be confirmed in the coming weeks and months.

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