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Douyin rival Kuaishou files for Hong Kong IPO, reveals loss of over USD 10 billion in first half

Written by Wency Chen Published on 

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China’s two biggest short video platforms are racing to an IPO.

Chinese short video giant Kuaishou has applied to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Thursday night, eying billions of dollars, while its main competitor, ByteDance-owned Douyin, is also planning an initial public offering (IPO) on the bourse.

Founded in 2011 as a GIF-making tool, Kuaishou has evolved to be the second-largest short video sharing and livestreaming platform in China after Douyin, with more than 302 million daily active users and 776 million monthly active users (including apps and mini programs) by the end of June. It has also expanded its reach into advertising, e-commerce, and gaming. Douyin claimed to have more than 600 million daily active users as of August.

China digest

Big-name backers of the Kuaishou include Tencent, Jack Ma’s YF Capital, Temasek Holding, and Sequoia Capital. It was valued at roughly USD 28.6 billion when the pre-IPO round closed in December 2019. Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and China Renaissance Holdings are joint sponsors of the upcoming IPO, the company’s prospectus said.

Kuaishou didn’t disclose how much it aims to raise in the stock sale, but the company is reportedly targeting to raise USD 5 billion at a valuation of more than USD 50 billion. The proposed IPO is expected to occur in the first quarter of 2021.

According to the filing, in the first half of this year, Kuaishou raked in RMB 25.3 billion (USD 3.81 billion) in revenue, up 48% from the same period one year ago. Its revenues were RMB 8.3 billion, RMB 20.3 billion, and RMB 39.1 billion, in 2017, 2018, and 2019, respectively, mainly from its livestreaming business.

However, Kuaishou’s net loss is widening staggeringly this year, as it competes for attention with platforms like short video app Douyin, video sharing site Bilibili, gaming sites Douyu and Huya, and even e-commerce giant Taobao.

In the six months through June, its net loss reached a record-high RMB 68.1 billion (USD 10.3 billion)—a figure larger than the last three years combined. It swung to an adjusted net loss of RMB 6.35 million (USD 960 million) during the same period, versus an adjusted net income of RMB 7.8 million, RMB 1.8 million, and RMB 1.3 billion in 2017, 2018, and 2019, respectively.

Behind the loss is the increasing spending in promoting and marketing amid Kuaishou’s efforts to diversify its revenue sources beyond livestreaming. In the first half of this year, advertising expenses reached RMB 13.3 billion (USD 2 billion), more than three times last year’s level. Its efforts see it pushing into online marketing, e-commerce, gaming, and value-added services, while livestreaming remains the main cash cow. However, its percentage of total revenue went down to 68.5% from 2017’s 95.3%.

In the intensifying competition with Douyin, the company launched Kuaishou’s lite version (“Kuaishou Jisu Ban” in Mandarin), which attracts and engages users with a cash-reward feature and can run faster on a low-end smart phone last August, and doled out virtual “red packets” worth billions of yuan in CCTV’s Spring Festive Gala in a bid to enlarge user base.

Online shopping orders generated on the platform exceeded 500 million in August, making it the fourth-largest e-commerce platform in China by total order volume in the past 12 months. In the first half of 2020, Kuaishou’s e-commerce livestreaming generated RMB 109.6 billion (USD 16.56 billion) in sales, the prospectus highlighted.

Meanwhile, ByteDance reportedly has been in talks with investors over a USD 2 billion fundraising at a valuation of USD 180 billion and it’s planning a Hong Kong IPO for its main businesses, including short video app Douyin, news aggregator Jinri Toutiao and longer video app Xigua Video.

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