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Joyy’s Top Shareholders Plan Take-Private Deal Valuing it at $8 Billion

Joyy Chairman David Li and Xiaomi founder Lei Jun are teaming up for the deal because they feel the Chinese social media company is undervalued in the US market

Xiaomi founder Lei Jun has been linked to a plan to take Joyy private. AFP photo.

Joyy Inc’s top two shareholders plan to take the Nasdaq-listed company private in a deal that could value it at up to $8 billion, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

Joyy Chairman David Li and Xiaomi founder Lei Jun are teaming up for the deal as they believe the Chinese social media company is undervalued in the US market, the sources said.

Joyy had an average market value of $3.9 billion over the past month, while its net asset value totalled $5.6 billion as of June 30, based on its quarterly results.

Li and Lei are looking to offer $75-$100 per share to take the cash-rich company private, two of the people said. That would be a premium of 50-100% on the share’s average price over the past month. The sources all spoke on condition of anonymity as the information was private.

Li and Lei did not immediately respond to requests for comment via Joyy and Xiaomi. Neither did Joyy.

Joyy shares rose 8.6% in pre-market trading on Thursday.

Li and Lei owned 23.2% and 7.8% of Joyy, respectively, according to the company’s 2020 annual report, while Li had 76% of its voting power.

Leaving US Markets

If completed, the deal would add to a growing number of New York-listed Chinese firms that have already opted out of US bourses by going private or returning to equity markets closer to home via secondary listings.

These moves come amid heightened scrutiny and stricter audit requirements for US-listed Chinese companies from American regulators amid political tensions between the countries.

Weibo chairman Charles Chao and a state investor were reported last month to be in talks to take Weibo private in a deal that could value the Nasdaq-listed Chinese equivalent of Twitter at $20 billion-plus.

There were 16 announced take-private deals of US-listed Chinese companies worth $19 billion last year, Dealogic data shows, versus just five such deals worth $8 billion in 2019.

The Li-Lei consortium is in talks with banks to finance the deal and seeks to secure a loan by using Joyy’s $4.9 billion cash and cash equivalents as collateral, two of the sources said, adding it aims to finalise the deal by the end of 2021.

Spin-Off and Listing Plan

The plan is to then spin off Joyy’s key asset, Singapore-based Bigo, which runs the live-streaming platform Bigo Live and short video business Likee, and list it in Asia, likely in Hong Kong, to take advantage of higher valuations, one source added.

Founded in 2005, Joyy went public on the Nasdaq in 2012. It also runs game-focused social media platform Hago and owns a 16% stake in Chinese video-game streaming site Huya.

Joyy said in November that it would sell its video-based entertainment live-streaming business in China to search engine giant Baidu Inc for about $3.6 billion in cash.

The sale is waiting for approval from the anti-monopoly watchdog State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) to reach a final close in the coming weeks, the sources said.

A nod from the SAMR would also allow Joyy to receive the remaining proceeds of about $1.6 billion from Baidu, they added.

The SAMR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Joyy shares have plunged 53% in the past six months while the Nasdaq Golden Dragon China Index, which tracks Chinese firms listed on the exchange, has dropped 41%.

 

• Reuters and Jim Pollard

 

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This story was updated with additional information.

Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years and has a family in Bangkok.

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