Less than a week after Beijing pulled off its egregious rug-pull of the Didi IPO – after which the world learned that Beijing had ‘suggested’ to the company’s management that the CCP wasn’t entirely comfortable with their plans to list in the US – more Chinese firms are abandoning plans to list in New York as the world wonders whether the US has seen the last listing of a Chinese company.
Following reports from earlier this week claiming TikTok-owner ByteDance had decided to abandon plans to list in the US in favor of listing in Hong Kong, two more Chinese firms called off their US IPOs on Thursday. They include Alibaba-backed LinkDoc and SoftBank- and Tencent-backed fitness app Keep.
LinkDoc had planned to raise up to $210MM on the Nasdaq, but it closed its book on Wednesday despite reportedly strong demand. However, Nikkei reported that “market volatility, regulatory uncertainty and fear of angering Chinese regulators have prompted the company to cancel the offering, one of the people said. The company had been expected to price the deal today, which means it would have likely started trading some time next week.
On Wednesday, LinkDoc updated its prospectus to cite new risks from Beijing, in what was perhaps a hint that the deal would soon be pulled. According to anonymously-sourced whispers, LinkDoc, a provider of cancer-focused health care services using big data and artificial intelligence, had planned to sell 10.8MM shares priced between $17.50 and $19.50 each.
Including the $4.4 billion raised by Didi, a total of 36 Chinese companies have sold shares in New York this year, raising a total of $12.6 billion, according to Dealogic. This marks the fastest start to a year for Chinese deal flow; Chinese firms raised just $2.8 billion in the same period last year.
Later in the morning, the FT reported that Keep, which had been expected to raise up to $500MM, has told its bankers at Morgan Stanley that it would cancel its plans to meet with potential investors this week, according to anonymous sources familiar with the deal. Additionally, the FT confirmed earlier reports that Ximalaya, a podcasting platform (which has courted some controversy of its own), had recently canceled its IPO, apparently before the Didi rug-pull which suggests it may have decided to cancel or delay those plans for other reasons.
Beijing warned earlier this week that it would no longer tolerate overseas listings as it pushes domestic firms to list in Hong Kong or domestically. The crackdown on Didi and two other post-IPO Chinese firms was said to be tied to their handling of Chinese consumer data, which is now subject to strict laws requiring companies to keep the physical data in the country.
Keep is the latest disaster for SoftBank, which is suffering heavy losses as many of its portfolio companies (including Alibaba) have tumbled in the aftermath of Didi’s troubles. Keep was valued at $2 billion in its latest SoftBank-led funding round. SoftBsnk is also a major shareholder in Didi. The firm is also an investor in ByteDance, which has also reportedly scrapped plans to list in the US.
The crackdown is being led by the Cyberspace Administration of China, a regulator created by President Xi Jinping during his first term in office. Media outlets have been scrambling to offer readers and explanation of what the regulator does and how it works, seeing as it’s now apparently playing a major role as a gatekeeper of Chinese firms (Nikkei published a lengthy explainer here).
WSJ’s report on the agency offered some new details about the “miscommunication” that preceded Didi’s listing. While the CAC and some others reportedly suggested to Didi that it might want to reconsider, other regulators – including the country’s main economic and financial regulators – reportedly encouraged Didi to press ahead.
Bottom line: the CAC has been tasked with cementing the CCP’s control over the private corporate sector including – and especially – technology firms. Chinese law says data collected from social media, e-commerce, lending and other private business activities is a “national asset” and must be safeguarded.