The Chinese are hooked on Grindr.
The notorious gay hook-up app, which has suffered a brutal string of bad press while racking up copious amounts of user information, is soon to become majority owned by a Chinese investment firm.
Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. is buying a 60 percent stake in Los Angeles-based Grindr, the companies announced Tuesday.
Grindr, which caters to gay and bisexual men, says it has built up its base of more than two million daily users in 196 countries without taking money from outside investors. But now it's turning to China to step up its expansion.
"We have taken this investment in our company to accelerate our growth," Grindr's founder and chief executive, Joel Simkhai, said in a blog post.
Beijing Kunlun, one of China's largest game developers, said it was paying $93 million for the majority stake in Grindr, which launched in 2009.
In a statement, the Chinese company said the investment would improve its strategic position. But it remained vague about its plans for Grindr in China, the world's most populous country.
"We will grow in the U.S. first, but we also can see our future as a global platform including China," said Sophie Chen, a spokeswoman for Beijing Kunlun.
The app is accessible in China, but its availability has been intermittent in the past, with users complaining of access problems in some cities.
The main player in the Chinese market for gay dating apps is the homegrown Blued, which was started in 2013 by Geng Le, a former police officer.
Geng, who says his app draws around 3 million daily users, welcomed Beijing Kunlun's investment in Grindr.
"It shows the Chinese capital market's acceptance of LGBT social networks and their huge potential," he said. "And it may make us rethink our strategy by considering going public in the Chinese stock market instead of overseas ones."
Lu Xun, of San Francisco based Community Marketing & Insights, Inc. estimates there are 70 million LGBT people in China. The Chinese government decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from a list of mental illnesses in 2001 yet propaganda and culture officials often take a conservative line, removing gay-themed TV shows from the Internet and allowing homophobic sex education textbooks.
In a presentation at the Fort Lauderdale Beach Westin Resort last month, Lu revealed results from a survey showing LGBT mobile apps are the most effective means of communication for the LGBT population in China.
The government hasn't objected to gay dating apps as long as they stick to its Internet rules that restrict the dissemination of pornography and politically sensitive information.
Investors appeared to welcome Beijing Kunlun's move for Grindr, driving the Chinese company's stock in Shenzhen up 10 percent on Tuesday to its maximum daily limit.
Founded in 2008, Beijing Kunlun is barely older than Grindr. It went public last year and employs more than 1,000 people, according to its website.
In the U.S., Grindr is often associated with stories such as closeted anti-gay politicians; robberies or sexually transmitted diseases. The app has long been a punchline for comedians, such as Conan O'Brien who created his own profile to explore the gay scene during a bit on his late night talk show.
Additional reporting provided by CNN's Jethro Mullen and Steven Jiang