China's Didi valued at $107.6 billion in mega US IPO as shares soar

SoftBank-backed Didi's stock opened at US$16.65, compared with the initial public offering price of US$14 per share. PHOTO: REUTERS

BENGALURU (REUTERS) - China's Didi Global shares soared nearly 19 per cent in their New York Stock Exchange debut on Wednesday in the biggest US listing by a Chinese company since 2014.

SoftBank-backed Didi's stock opened at US$16.65, compared with the initial public offering (IPO) price of US$14 per share. It had priced an upsized offering of 316.8 million American Depositary Shares at the upper end of its US$13 to US$14 range, raising US$4.4 billion.

However, it later closed up a mere 1 per cent, giving Didi a market value of about US$68 billion (S$91.5 billion).

Morgan Stanley Investment Management had indicated interest in subscribing up to US$750 million worth of stock in Didi's IPO and Singapore's Temasek US$500 million.

Didi's listing in New York will be the biggest US share sale by a Chinese company since Alibaba raised US$25 billion in 2014.

The biggest Chinese listing in the United States so far this year was Full Truck Alliance, often referred to as "Uber for trucks", which raised US$1.6 billion.

Didi, which is also backed by technology investment giants Alibaba, Tencent and Uber, was founded in 2012 by chief executive Cheng Wei as Didi Dache, a taxi-hailing app. It merged with peer Kuaidi Dache to become Didi Kuaidi and was later renamed Didi Chuxing.

Mr Cheng, who was born in 1983 in a small town in the southeastern province of Jiangxi and once worked as an assistant to the head of a foot massage firm, was worth US$1.2 billion prior to Didi's market debut, according to Forbes.

At the debut price, Mr Cheng's stake in Didi is worth US$5.22 billion. He got the idea for a ride-hailing platform on a freezing winter night in Beijing when he had trouble getting a taxi.

SoftBank is Didi's largest investor and will own a 20.2 per cent stake in the firm following the IPO. Tencent will hold 6.4 per cent, while Uber will retain 12 per cent of Didi. Mr Cheng will own a 6.5 per cent stake in the company he built.

Didi, the world's largest mobility-technology platform, went on to buy rival Uber's China business in 2016 and the San Francisco-based company retained a stake in Didi at the time.

The company in 2018 decided to invest US$1 billion in its auto services business, part of a larger unit rebranding. It has also invested heavily to expand its core business outside its home market by either pouring money in local partners or launching their services.

Didi has a dominant position in the online ride-hailing business in China and operates in 4,000 locations across 16 countries. It has more than 490 million annual active users, according to a recent regulatory filing.

Its offerings include private car-hailing, sharing bikes, delivery, freight and logistics, and financial services.

Didi's listing also makes it the latest Chinese firm to tap US capital markets amid tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Despite the political sparring, 29 Chinese firms raised US$7.6 billion in US IPOs in the first six months of the year, according to Refinitiv data.

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