Lehman Brothers Private Equity Partners Ltd has led the fundraising of nearly $10 million for Chinese travel search engine Qunar.com, in its first deal in China's consumer Internet sector, a source familiar with the situation said on Tuesday.
Guernsey-based LBPE, which invests in a portfolio of private equity funds and direct investments, is leading a series-B financing round of under US$10 million in Qunar, alongside existing investors, the source said.
They've done a few PE (private equity) deals, but I think traditional industries. This is certainly their first consumer Internet deal, in China, the source said.
A spokesman for Qunar.com declined to comment, and a spokesman for Lehman was not immediately available.
Qunar -- Chinese for Where are you going? -- backed by venture capital funds GSR Ventures and Mayfield -- provides pricing information for travel services.
China's online travel services sector is dominated by Ctrip.com and eLong Inc., in which U.S. online travel giant Expedia Inc has a majority stake.
Qunar may seek a public listing in 2010 or 2011, either in Hong Kong or on the U.S. tech-heavy Nasdaq, its Chief Executive Fritz Demopoulos told Reuters in May.
Qunar, which makes most of its income from advertising fees, also has agreements with Hilton Hotels Corp, Intercontinental Hotels and China's flagship carrier Air China.
The companies provide pricing and availability information to Qunar, which leads customers directly to their Web sites for booking.
China's online travel industry is poised to take off, analysts have said, because authorities are asking airlines and travel agencies to offer electronic air tickets instead of paper ones by the end of 2007.
The industry has benefited from a decision by China in 2003 to begin a scheme to allow mainland Chinese from authorised cities to travel to Hong Kong as individual visitors. (Reporting by Sophie Taylor, editing by Dominic Whiting)