Type to search

Didi pressing on with mega-IPO despite antitrust violations probe
Didi Chuxing's coming New York IPO could be one of the biggest deals of the year

The ride-hailing firm is looking to raise up to $10 billion in the US offering that would value the firm at close to $100 billion – and it doesn’t appear to have been put off by Beijing’s tech firms crackdown

 

Ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing is pressing on with plans for its IPO, adding five more banks to work on its US offer, despite claims China’s market regulator has begun an antitrust probe.

Didi, whose IPO could be the largest by a Chinese firm in the United States in seven years, has given mandates to the Bank of America, Barclays, China International Capital Corp (CICC) Citigroup and HSBC Holdings as book runners on the deal, sources said.

But this news comes just a day after it emerged China’s market regulator had begun an antitrust probe into Didi.

Also on AF: India-UK open cleantech two-way street of investment, green opportunity

The probe is the latest in a sweeping crackdown on China’s so-called ‘platform’ companies, including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Tencent Holdings Ltd.

It’s claimed China’s market regulator, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), is investigating whether Didi used any competitive practices that squeezed out smaller rivals unfairly. 

The regulator is also examining whether the pricing mechanism used by Didi’s core ride-hailing business is transparent enough, it’s alleged.

Didi could raise up to $10 billion in the IPO that would value the firm at up to $100 billion. At that size, it would be the largest IPO by a Chinese company in the United States since Alibaba raised $25 billion 2014.

COMPLIANCE COMMITMENTS

In its IPO prospectus made public last week, Didi disclosed that it and more than 30 other Chinese internet companies had met with regulators, including the SAMR, in April. The regulators asked the companies to conduct a “self-inspection” and submit compliance commitments, it said.

The companies were asked to identify and correct possible violations of antimonopoly, anti-unfair competition, tax and other related laws and regulations, Didi said in the filing.

Didi said it had completed the self-inspection and the “relevant governmental authorities have conducted onsite inspections”. 

It warned that regulatory bodies might not be satisfied with the inspection results and the firm may be subject to potential penalties. 

‘MINOR OFFENCES’

The impact of the probe on the company’s IPO remains to be seen but one source said Didi believed pricing and unfair competition would be viewed as relatively minor offences. 

In recent months China has sought to curb the economic and social power of its once loosely regulated internet giants, a clampdown backed by President Xi Jinping. In April, SAMR imposed a $2.75 billion fine on Alibaba, a record for the agency.

In March, SAMR fined the registered firm behind Didi’s community group-buying platform Chengxin Youxuan 1.5 million yuan ($233,656) along with another four firms, citing “improper pricing behaviour”.

Didi, the world’s largest mobility-technology platform, operates in 15 countries and counts over 493 million annual active users globally, according to its prospectus. 

SUBSIDY WARS

It reached its dominant position in the online ride-hailing business in China after years-long subsidy wars with Alibaba-backed Kuaidi and Silicon Valley-based Uber’s China unit, both of which were merged into Didi as investors grew tired of burning cash and demanded profits.

In 2016, Uber Technologies Inc sold its operation to Didi in exchange for a 17.5% stake in the Chinese firm, which also made a $1 billion investment in Uber. 

The US firm currently owns 12.8% stake in Didi, according to the Chinese company’s prospectus. Some of Asia’s largest technology investment firms, including SoftBank Group Corp, Alibaba and Tencent, have also invested in Didi.

In addition to ride-sharing, Didi operates different businesses around mobility, including electric vehicle charging networks, fleet management, car making and autonomous driving.

 

  • Reporting by Reuters

 

Read more:

Regulators ‘pressing China Huarong to sell non-core units’

Citigroup hopes to offload some Asia assets in the next month

 

Sean OMeara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.

AF China Bond