Uber defies Spain ban telling drivers it will pay to appeal fines
Chinese internet search engine Baidu is planning to invest in Uber, the controversial taxi app.Reuters

China-based online search provider Baidu is investing in controversial US taxi-hailing service Uber.

China state-owned China National Radio (CNR) reported that Baidu has sent out an invitation to reporters to an event titled "Uber Press Conference" at its Beijing headquarters on 17 December.

At the event, the company will announce the signing of an important cross-border investment and strategic cooperation deal, according to CNR. Baidu will invest up to $600m (£382m, €482.6m) in Uber, the broadcaster said.

Along with Baidu founder Robin Li, a "mysterious guest" – expected to be Uber CEO Travis Kalanick – will participate in the press conference.

Local taxi-hailing apps Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache are market leaders in China, and have the backing of internet giants Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings, respectively.

Uber started its service in China's Shanghai in August 2013, and subsequently expanded into cities such as Beijing, Tianjin, southern Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Nevertheless, it has a minuscule presence in the country, in comparison with the two dominant players.

Uber had completed its latest funding round earlier, valuing it at $40bn ahead of its planned initial public offering. A year ago, the company was providing services in 60 cities in 21 countries, but now it covers 250 cities in 50 countries.

However, the US company has recently suffered a number of blows to its international expansion plan.

On 8 December, the company was banned from operating in India's capital New Delhi, after one of its drivers was arrested on charges of raping a female passenger.

The 26-year-old woman, who used Uber's smartphone app to book a taxi on 5 December, was allegedly taken to a secluded area and raped.

The service was earlier banned in the Netherlands, as it lacked a special licence that was required according to the laws of the country.

The US city of Portland sued the firm for not following the city's regulations. The city laws require all for-hire vehicles to be licensed, and it wants Uber to follow them.

Transport authorities in Thailand said the company's operation in the country was against its laws, and ordered the firm to stop services.