The delivery bike of the food delivery app Ele.me in China. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Alibaba and its fintech arm Ant Financial announced it will fully acquire Ele.me, one of the leading online food delivery service providers in China, at a cost of US$9.5 billion, Yicai.com reported.

Meituan.com, Ele.me’s major competitor, appeared unruffled by the announcement, responding by offering thanks to “an old friend,” and welcoming the arrival of a “new mate.”

China’s takeout market is leading the world with a scale of more than 300 billion yuan, and Meituan believes it is a win-win situation for consumers as the two parties have strived for many years to improve the user experience amid strong competition.

It is worth mentioning that Alibaba had previously been an investor in Meituan. Later, with Tencent’s increasing investment in Meituan, Alibaba gradually reduced its holdings and increased its input in Meituan’s main competitor, Ele.me.

According to a report released by the BigData-Research, in the first quarter of 2017, Ele.me accounted for 36.5% of the market share, while Meituan secured 33%.