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Meituan planning Hong Kong debut as soon as Monday, sources say

BEIJING – Chinese shopping platform Meituan is set to launch a sister app in Hong Kong as soon as Monday, taking the world’s largest food delivery service beyond mainland China for the first time.

The Tencent Holdings Ltd.-backed internet firm plans to debut its “KeeTa” meal delivery service as early as next week, people familiar with the matter said. It will initially serve the neighborhood of Mong Kok in the north of Hong Kong, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information isn’t public.

Local newspaper Sing Tao first reported on the impending launch.

Beijing-based Meituan is looking to move beyond its home market – where it dominates – and compete against the likes of Deliveroo Plc and Delivery Hero SE’s Foodpanda. In China, Meituan has in past years pushed Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s into a distant No. 2 position.

A growing number of Chinese internet incumbents are keen to expand abroad as local businesses grapple with an uneven post-pandemic recovery and the lingering effects of Beijing’s sweeping campaign to rein in the internet industry. 

It’s unclear whether KeeTa – a nod to the fast-moving cheetah – will eventually make it beyond Hong Kong. The company is likely to first broaden coverage of the affluent city if operations go smoothly. It’s already placed an app on Hong Kong’s iOS store inviting applications from prospective riders, Bloomberg News has confirmed. It is also recruiting people to make deliveries on foot or via bicycle, accounting for the city’s high density.

Meituan, which hasn’t outlined plans to go international, will report earnings next Thursday. A company representative didn’t have immediate comment when contacted for the story.

Meituan has been hiring aggressively in preparation for its debut in Hong Kong for months. It will rely on a familiar subsidy-heavy strategy to draw in users and delivery people alike. It launched a series of information sessions in March to hear directly from potential delivery drivers, many of which already work for Deliveroo or Foodpanda. Meituan also set up a 24-7 courier hub for riders in Mong Kok.

In contrast to the cost-cutting and layoffs across Silicon Valley, Meituan set out to hire 10,000 people in its mainland market this year to fend off intensified competition from players such as ByteDance Ltd. in China’s US$145 billion food arena.

The different branding of its Hong Kong app mirrors similar moves by the likes of ByteDance and Temu-owner PDD Holdings Inc.: unfurling a different banner in recognition of different marketing and operational needs abroad. BLOOMBERG