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Baidu gets go-ahead for secondary listing on Hong Kong stock exchange

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Georgina Lee, Chad Bray georgina.lee@scmp.com; chadwick.bray@scmp.com
·3 min read
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Baidu, China's internet search-engine giant and artificial intelligence (AI) firm, moved a step closer to a secondary listing in Hong Kong after winning approval from the Hong Kong stock exchange's listing committee on Thursday, according to people familiar with the matter.

The approval paves the way for the Nasdaq-listed company to launch a secondary listing in the city as soon as this month. It is reportedly seeking to raise up to US$3.5 billion with CLSA and Goldman Sachs acting as underwriters on the deal.

Baidu declined to comment when contacted on Thursday.

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The search giant's planned listing in Hong Kong came as companies raised the highest-ever proceeds from initial public offerings on the city's stock exchange in the first two months of this year, totalling US$9.6 billion across 22 deals, data from Refinitiv shows.

Part of that record was due also to a jumbo deal completed by Tencent-backed short video platform Kuaishou, whose IPO raised more than half of that amount in February.

Still, several other billion-dollar deals are targeting a launch as soon as this month. One example is short video platform Bilibili, which is also listed on Nasdaq and is seeking to raise about US$3 billion, the Post has previously reported.

Baidu's IPO plan in Hong Kong came after it disclosed in February that its full-year net income surged over tenfold, to 22.5 billion yuan (US$3.5 billion) from 2.1 billion yuan in 2019.

"As we enter 2021, Baidu is well positioned as a leading AI company with a strong internet foundation to seize the huge market opportunities in cloud services, autonomous driving, smart transport and other AI opportunities," co-founder and chief executive Robin Li said in a press release announcing the group's February results.

"We will continue to pursue our mission to make the world simpler through technology," he said in the press release.

On Wednesday, Baidu's share price closed at US$277.80 in New York.

Bankers helping US-listed Chinese firms seek a secondary listing in Hong Kong are likely to have to track their US stock price levels closely when setting their offer price in Hong Kong to avoid stoking off volatility that could mire their share price, market observers said.

Apart from its search engine, social media platform and mobile apps, Baidu's cloud service and autonomous driving platform, called Baidu Apollo, both of which are backed by its AI capabilities, have seen rapid growth in recent years.

In January, it announced a plan to form a new company to produce electric vehicles through a partnership with Zhejiang Geely, the Chinese automobiles group that owns Volvo. Baidu will provide its autonomous driving technologies to the venture, while Geely will contribute with design and manufacturing.

Baidu also controls online movie and video streaming platform iQiyi, which has 101.7 million subscribers and is separately listed on Nasdaq. It recorded a net loss of 7 billion yuan in 2020, narrowing from 10.3 billion in 2019.

In the financial guidance given in its February results announcement, Baidu said it expected revenue for the first quarter of 2021 to range from 26 billion yuan to 28.5 billion yuan, representing a growth rate of 15 per cent to 26 per cent year on year.

Additional reporting by Peggy Sito

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2021 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.