BEIJING, May 29 -- Canada's BlackBerry Partners Fund, a $141 million venture capital fund backed by the maker of the BlackBerry, Research In Motion Ltd (RIM), said on Friday it will launch a $100 million affiliate fund in China to invest in the world's largest mobile market.
The BlackBerry Partners Fund China, co-invested by BlackBerry Partners Fund and China Broadband Capital Partners, will invest exclusively in mobile phone services and applications in the country, according to a statement.
BlackBerry Partners Fund is backed by RIM, Thomson Reuters Corp and Royal Bank of Canada.
"The launch of the fund will position us to take better advantage of attractive investments in one of the fast growing mobile computing markets in the world," said Kevin Talbot, co-managing partner of BlackBerry Partners Fund.
The new fund is expected to make 20 to 25 investments over four years, according to a Reuters report.
According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China had 786.5 million mobile phone users by the end of April. Last year, 240 million mobile phones were sold in the China market, said technology research firm iSuppli. The firm predicted that shipments of smartphones in China would reach 26 million this year.
The launch of the new fund came after RIM began selling its touch-screen BlackBerry Storm to government and corporate users with China Telecom this month, in an effort to strengthen its presence in the country.
The company has teamed up with China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile carrier, since 2006 to sell a limited number of older BlackBerry 8700 models to corporate users.
Gregory Shea, corporate vice-president of RIM China, said that RIM is working closely on "investment of resources" with the two carriers. He added that the company is in discussions on the TD-LTE network with China Mobile while trying to come out with a smartphone that supports China Mobile's home-grown TD-SCDMA network in December.
But he refused to comment on reports that China Unicom, which sold Apple Inc's iPhone in the country, will introduce the BlackBerry to the Chinese market within this year.
RIM said that the BlackBerry currently has 41 million users globally, with over half of these being individual consumers. The company, whose users were mainly corporate ones when it launched the BlackBerry, has been shifting its focus to consumers over the past two to three years.