Chinese Internet search giant Baidu Inc. has established a Baidu sports unit with an eye to raise external venture funding to expand into the sports businesses, Chinese media reported.

Baidu is following in the footsteps of Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Tencent has exclusive rights to premium sporting events including the NBA, while Alibaba has established an Ali Sports unit.

Li Huan, the head of Baidu's lottery unit, has been appointed as CEO of Baidu Sports, which has held meetings with potential investors to raise outside venture funding.

Baidu Sports is likely to spin off Baidu's Goal Football unit, a joint venture Baidu established with digital sports media firm Perform in May.

As a latecomer, how much a focus will Baidu place on its new sports division remains to be seen.

Baidu's lottery unit was established in 2010 to provide sales of sports and cultural products, as well as Internet information services. In 2014, it was formally incorporated into Baidu.

Last July, Baidu announced a strategic program named "Aircraft Carrier Plan". The company has since spun off its food delivery unit, music, literature, 91 desktop, and video divisions. Some of those have gone on to raise external financing.


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