China's Xiaomi places a $1.5B bet on AI and smart devices

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(Bloomberg) --Xiaomi Corp. will invest at least 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) on artificial intelligence and smart devices over the next five years, as the smartphone maker navigates an industry downturn and economic uncertainty stemming from U.S.-Chinese tensions.

The investment is part of the Beijing-based company’s strategy of wringing more revenue from high-value services and the Internet of Things, billionaire co-founder Lei Jun said in a statement. The company is also focusing on pushing upmarket while expanding into Europe, Lei told Bloomberg Television Thursday. Xiaomi’s taking action against the backdrop of a brewing trade war that’s stoking global economic uncertainty, he added.

“Now is the time for the action. We are all in on AIoT,” Lei said, referring to the combination of AI and the so-called ecosystem of connected devices known as the Internet of Things. He didn’t elaborate on details of his investment plan.

Xiaomi is looking to diversify its revenue as demand for smartphones globally plateaus, though it expects demand to bounce back with the advent of super-fast fifth-generation wireless. Once touted as an internet company that can command a value of as much as $100 billion, Xiaomi is now worth roughly a third of that. Its stock is down roughly 40 percent from its July initial public offering.

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