Digital comics platform Kuaikan Manhua (快看漫画) has carried out a USD 125 million round of strategic investment led by Tencent (0700:HK).
This is the fifth funding event in the company's five-year history. By now, the firm has raised over USD 220 million from a handful of far-famed investors, including omnipresent Sequoia China Capital and TikTok originator Bytedance (字节跳动). Last year, Kuaikan Manhua received USD 177 million in its Series D financing round led by TMT hedge fund Coatue Management.
Tencent apparently bets big on the new generation of Chinese citizens and the country's growing middle class. The digital giant went on a spending spree with a CNY 200 million (USD 28.40 million) investment in Xiaobang Guihua (小帮规划), financial platform "for everyone", last week. Two days later, EqualOcean reported that the Internet conglomerate had poured USD 80 million into B2B FMCG e-commerce marketplace Yijiupi (易久批).
While headquartered in Beijing, Kuaikan Manhua has accumulated a huge manhua-fan base across all China's regions. According to one industry expert, the number of unique users registered on the platform exceeded 150 million last year. The company positions itself as a "comics supermarket": Besides generating original content and acting as a channel to promote talented writers' works, it also organizes comic strips writing contests.
Aside from that, the firm tries to break into other lucrative entertainment submarkets. Cartoons and online games are being developed to retain a tremendous amount of Chinese youngsters by providing their favorite types of mental food. The possibility of creating spin-offs is the biggest advantage of such multidisciplinary synergy: Successful comics stories might be adapted into both cinema and video game industry.
“Use of online platforms is among the most flexible ways to market comic strips and cartoon art,” said Zisong Wang, location designer at Beijing-based animation studio Mapletoon. “It brings original creators closer to readers and, at the same time, accelerates the speed and frequency of updates to meet nascent demand.”
iResearch estimates China’s manhua market to be worth CNY 175 billion (USD 24.42 billion) in 2018. This number grew 13.7% from the previous year, according to the research company. Although it seems to be significant, it is still far from the world-famous American franchises that recently have been "exiting" by shooting multibillion Hollywood blockbusters.