Kuaishou, backed by GIC and Temasek, seeks $7.2b in biggest tech IPO since Uber

Kuaishou is one of China's biggest internet success stories of the past decade.
Kuaishou is one of China's biggest internet success stories of the past decade.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Kuaishou Technology, the operator of China's most popular video service after ByteDance's Douyin, is seeking to raise as much as US$5.4 billion (S$7.2 billion) in the world's biggest internet initial public offering since Uber Technologies.

The short video start-up, backed by Tencent Holdings, is selling 365 million shares at HK$105 to HK$115 each, according to terms of the deal obtained by Bloomberg News. The company will start taking investor orders from Monday (Jan 25) through Jan 29 and is slated to list on Feb 5 in Hong Kong.

Kuaishou is attempting the world's biggest internet IPO since Uber's US$8.1 billion US share sale in May 2019, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Chinese start-up's IPO will also give another boost to Hong Kong's already-hot capital market and could become Asia's largest since Budweiser Brewing's APAC Ltd's US$5.8 billion float almost two years ago.

Kuaishou, which means "fast hand," is one of China's biggest internet success stories of the past decade, part of a generation of start-ups that thrived with backing from Tencent. Along with TikTok parent ByteDance, the outfit co-created by Su Hua in 2013 pioneered the live streaming and bite-sized video format that's since been adopted around the world by the likes of Facebook. Kuaishou's imminent debut could test investor appetite for its far larger rival, which was last valued at US$180 billion.

Tencent and IPO advisor China Renaissance Holdings surged in Hong Kong, suggesting enthusiasm for its upcoming debut. On Monday, Kuaishou executives revealed monthly active users on its main app had reached 481.4 million while average daily time spent had crossed the 100-minute mark in 2021. Co-founder Mr Su emphasized his company was pursuing future growth by applying its popular video formats to a range of online services like shopping.

"We are exploring live-streaming in local life services and knowledge sharing," the 38-year-old former Google engineer told investors on a conference call. "We'll also try to use short videos and live-streaming, both based on the fan-host relationship, to transform one industry after another. That's a driving force for our future growth."

The offering of Kuaishou has attracted 10 cornerstone investors, who agreed to subscribe for US$2.45 billion of stock, based on the mid-point of the marketed range. The lineup includes The Capital Group, Temasek Holdings, GIC, BlackRock and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the terms show, confirming an earlier Bloomberg News report. The cornerstone investors have agreed to hold stock for six months in exchange for early, guaranteed allocation.

The valuation of Kuaishou could more than double after its Hong Kong IPO. A top-end pricing will value the Chinese firm at US$60.9 billion, up from the US$28.6 billion it achieved in a funding round last year, according to Pitchbook. Even at the low end of the range, Kuaishou will still be valued at US$55.6 billion.

ByteDance has long been a rumored IPO candidate but was bogged down last year in fighting a US ban on TikTok after the video service was labeled a national security threat. The social media giant was in discussions to raise US$2 billion before listing some of its businesses in Hong Kong, Bloomberg News reported in November.

Kuaishou had about 262 million average daily active users as of September, according to its prospectus. That's still less than half the 600 million on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. That said, Kuaishou's revenues climbed 49 per cent to 40.7 billion yuan (S$8.3 billion) in the first nine months of last year, after it ratcheted up monetization efforts through advertising and e-commerce. While it offers free access to its main platform, the start-up takes a cut of the tips users give to their favorite live-streamers who perform viral challenges, lip-synch to the latest pop songs and play video games.

Tencent has about a 21.6 per cent stake in Kuaishou, and other backers include venture capital firms DCM, DST Global and Sequoia Capital China, the prospectus shows. Shares in Tencent jumped as much as 6.4 per cent to an all-time high in early Monday trading in Hong Kong.

Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Corp and China Renaissance are joint sponsors of the deal.