Japanese conglomerate Sony Corp is investing US$400 million in cash for a minority stake in online entertainment platform Bilibili, accelerating the Shanghai-based company’s expansion in the world’s second largest economy.

Subsidiary Sony Corporation of America (SCA) agreed to subscribe to 17.3 million newly issued Class Z ordinary shares of Bilibili, which said on Thursday that the two companies will also enter into a business collaboration pact.

The transaction, which values Bilibili at US$8 billion, will give SCA a 4.98% stake in the Chinese streaming video services provider. The deal is expected to close on April 10.

Founded in 2009, Bilibili had about 1 million content creators at the end of December last year. (Picture: Shutterstock)

“The strategic investment and business cooperation further align our goals to bring best-in-class content offerings and services to our users, as we increase our domestic stronghold in animation and mobile games,” said Chen Rui, the chairman and chief executive of Bilibili, in a statement on Thursday. “We look forward to joining efforts on a broader scale to fulfill the tremendous and growing entertainment needs in China.”

The two companies will pursue collaboration opportunities within China’s entertainment industry, including anime and mobile games.

The new funding will enable Bilibili to sharpen its focus on growth areas and develop into a major industry contender behind Chinese streaming video giants iQiyi, Youku and Tencent Video – backed, respectively, by internet titans Baidu, Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings. Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

Founded in 2009, Bilibili has become the biggest video-comics-and-gaming entertainment platform for China’s fast-growing Generation Z market segment, made up of consumers born between 1990 and 2009.

Bilibili, in which Tencent invested more than US$300 million in 2018, reportedly paid US$113 million in December to exclusively stream for a three-year period the League of Legends World Championships, the flagship event of Tencent-owned US developer Riot Games.

The number of content creators in Bilibili grew 80% in the December quarter to about 1 million, according to Jefferies report. “We estimate it to reach 180 million and 220 million monthly active users in the third quarter of 2020 and third quarter of 2021, respectively,” according to Jefferies equity analyst Thomas Chong, lead author of the report.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post.)