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SenseTime Suspends $767m Hong Kong IPO After US Ban

Washington blacklisted SenseTime over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, which the firm called “unfounded”

China artificial intelligence (AI) startup SenseTime offices in Hong Kong
Silicon Valley Bank and Wanxiang American Healthcare investments group made investments in Chinese AI firms alongside China's Sensetime. Photo: Reuters


Chinese artificial intelligence start-up SenseTime Group postponed its $767 million Hong Kong initial public offering (IPO) on Monday after being placed on a US investment blacklist.

SenseTime said it remained committed to completing the offering and would publish a supplemental prospectus and an updated listing timetable.

Earlier on Monday sources revealed the company’s plan to withdraw the offering and update its prospectus to include the potential impact of the US investment ban, with the aim of relaunching the IPO process.

SenseTime had planned to sell 1.5 billion shares in a price range of HK$3.85 to HK$3.99, according to its regulatory filings. That would raise up to $767 million, a figure that had already been trimmed earlier this year from a $2 billion target.

However, instead of setting its listing price on Friday, as scheduled, it found itself in urgent talks with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and its lawyers over the future of the deal amid reports about the looming blacklist.


Refunds, But No Timetable

Sensetime did not provide details on the timetable for a revised IPO in its filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Monday.

“The company remains committed to completing the global offering and the listing soon,” it said in the filing, noting the revisions would help potential investors “consider the potential impact” of the US decision.

The company said it would refund all application monies in full without interest to all applicants who subscribed its shares in the offering process.

The US Treasury added SenseTime to a list of “Chinese military-industrial complex companies,” accusing the company of having developed facial recognition programmes that can determine a target’s ethnicity, with a particular focus on identifying ethnic Uyghurs.

UN experts and rights groups estimate more than a million people, mainly Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in a vast system of camps in China‘s far-west region of Xinjiang.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang, but the US government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there.

SenseTime said in a statement on Saturday that it “strongly opposed the designation and accusations that have been made in connection with it,” calling the accusations “unfounded”.


• Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard





China’s SenseTime Hong Kong IPO Hangs In The Balance


China’s SenseTime Reassessing Its $767m Hong Kong IPO


US to Blacklist China AI Firm SenseTime over Xinjiang: FT





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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