Li Ka-Shing Confirms Spotify Stake, Will Tie Up With 3, INQ

Spotify’s mobile future looks pretty good, even if Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) doesn’t approve its iPhone app. China’s Li Ka-Shing Foundation, which previously invested in Joost, has confirmed to Forbes that it has invested in the much-hyped music streamer.

Why does that equal mobile? Ka-Shing (rhymes with ka-ching) is also chairman at Hutchison Whampoa, owner of the 3 carrier and social network-focused mobile handset maker INQ. No word on Ka-Shing’s investment amount or stake in Spotify, which has raised between £20 million ($30 million) and £30 million ($50 million) from investors and labels, according to a source. But a foundation spokesperson tells Forbes it will have one seat on Spotify’s board, taken by INQ CEO Frank Meehan.

The synergies are clear. 3, which is the smallest of Britain’s five mobile carriers, but perhaps the bravest, differentiating itself with media-focused packages and Skype offers, is already talking with Spotify about prebundling the service on its mobiles, NMA reported earlier this month. Spotify has previously hinted mobile access is one of the reasons people may pay £9.99 a month for unlimited, ad-free music. But a tie-up could enable 3 to do carrier billing. Spotify could also persuade carriers other than 3 to take INQ’s phones.

This also explains llast week’s news that Ka-Shing’s Tom Group Chinese telco is working with Spotify on a Far East rollout, potentially lucrative, given the country’s penchant for free tunes.

Spotify also plans to roll out on other handsets, including Nokia’s S60 OS, a big part of 3’s handset lineup. Going mobile in this fashion would pit Spotify against the likes of MusicStation, the white-label unlimited music app Omnifone supplies to the likes of SonyEricsson (NSDQ: ERIC) and Vodafone.