China’s most popular fitness app pulled out of plans to file for an initial public offering in the US last week as Chinese regulators announced an investigation into data security concerns at Didi, a ride-hailing group.
Keep, which is backed by Japan’s SoftBank and China’s Tencent and is expected to raise up to $500m, did not go ahead with its planned public filing while its bankers at Morgan Stanley cancelled marketing meetings with investors this week, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The move is one of the first signs that the probe into possible data security breaches by Didi and other US-listed Chinese companies, including truck-hailing app Full Truck Alliance and online recruiter Boss Zhipin, is likely to impact billions of dollars of technology listings that are planned for New York this year.
Ximalaya, China’s biggest podcasting platform, also cancelled its US IPO in recent weeks, according to a person familiar with the company. “After communication with the relevant regulators, Ximalaya understands that a Hong Kong listing would be regarded as a preferred outcome,” the person said. The company had issued a prospectus in April.
Meanwhile LinkDoc Technology, a Chinese medical data solutions provider, shelved its Nasdaq IPO plans this week, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. It was due to price its shares on Thursday and expected to raise more than $200m, Reuters reported.
On Tuesday, Beijing said it would tighten restrictions on overseas listings of Chinese companies in a development that could threaten more than $2tn worth of shares on Wall Street.
The sweeping announcement, which indicated that US listings would become far more difficult for Chinese companies, has triggered a sell-off in Chinese technology stocks. China is concerned over whether citizens’ data is being made available to foreign governments as part of the listings.
A partner at a US law firm that has advised on Chinese IPOs said the pipeline of deals would grind to a halt. “Any deal would have to be done at a huge discount as regulators have demonstrated they are willing to effectively stop the company from growing.”
Keep and SoftBank declined to comment on the IPO plans. Keep was valued at about $2bn in its latest funding round, which was led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund, earlier this year. Its investors also include Tencent and Hillhouse Capital. Its value has been boosted by providing indoor workout plans and selling home exercise equipment during the pandemic.
The Keep move is the latest blow for SoftBank, which is the largest shareholder of Didi with a stake of about 20 per cent. SoftBank shares fell 5 per cent after the Cyberspace Administration of China revealed the investigation into Didi and ordered it to halt new registrations to its app. SoftBank is also an investor in Full Truck Alliance, which is also among the US-listed tech companies being investigated by the Chinese data watchdog.
Kirk Boodry, a tech analyst at Redex Holdings, said the probe into Didi raised fresh questions about the Vision Fund’s other big investments in China, such as TikTok parent company ByteDance. “On a relative basis, it might make China less attractive to other parts of the world,” he added.
Additional reporting by Kana Inagaki in Tokyo and Christian Shepherd in Beijing