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China's TikTok competitor Kuaishou, backed by Tencent, hires investment banks for a Hong Kong IPO

Alison Tudor-Ackroyd alison.t-a@scmp.com
·4 min read

China's TikTok competitor Kuaishou Technology is preparing an initial public offering in Hong Kong likely early next year, according to people familiar with its plans.

The Tencent-backed short video-sharing app has hired investment bankers to advise it on the listing, they said.

Beijing-based app operator Kuaishou Technology ranks eighth on the Hurun global unicorn index with a valuation of US$28 billion as of its last round of fund raising.

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It has raised a total of US$4.4 billion in funding over eight rounds, according to data provider Crunchbase, the latest of which was in January. Other investors in Kuaishou include Sequoia Capital China, Baidu, DCM Ventures and Morningside Venture Capital.

Its IPO plans comes as the Trump administration has told its rival ByteDance to sell TikTok's US operations or shut down in the United States. Oracle Corp has won the race to secure TikTok's American operations, according to multiple reports.

"Given the current China-US tension, a lot of [Chinese] issuers are leaning more towards Hong Kong [to list]," said Harvey Li, deputy head of equity capital markets at investment bank Citic CLSA during a conference on Thursday.

Founded in 2011, Kuaishou was initially launched as a tool for creating animated GIFs. Its founders restructured the business in 2013 into a short-form video social platform, which targeted users in lower-tier cities.

Daily live-streaming users on Kuaishou surged to 170 million during the first half of this year, up from about 100 million at the end of December last year, according to the app's first-half content report .

Seventy per cent of users who published content on Kuaishou from July 2019 to June this year were under the age of 30, the report said. There were about 300 million content creators globally who have published on the platform, known as Kwai overseas, during the same period.

At Kuaishou's karaoke store in Guangzhou customers can either sing on a public stage or entertain themselves in a sound-proof cubicle equipped with a screen, microphones and earphones. Photo: SCMP alt=At Kuaishou's karaoke store in Guangzhou customers can either sing on a public stage or entertain themselves in a sound-proof cubicle equipped with a screen, microphones and earphones. Photo: SCMP

Daily e-commerce users on Kuaishou exceeded 100 million in the first six months of this year, according to the report. It said 15 per cent of those users come from China's first-tier cities; 30 per cent, second-tier cities; 24 per cent, third-tier cities; and 31 per cent, fourth-tier cities.

Those numbers reflect the broader popularity of live-streaming e-commerce in China, as a growing number of traditional merchants move their retail operations online amid the countrywide lockdowns and social distancing measures imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

While ByteDance-owned rival Douyin, the Chinese-language version of TikTok, continues to lead in the local video-sharing market, Kuaishou has swiftly expanded its "shoppertainment" initiatives, in which its content creators and influencers help drive online retail campaigns.

Kuaishou this year launched its own shopping festival, the "616 Shopping Carnival", for its users. The platforms also collaborated with e-commerce giant JD.com to introduce a 24-hour special online retail campaign, "Doubling 10 billion-yuan subsidies shopping extravaganza", which generated 1.4 billion yuan (US$200 million) worth of paid transactions on June 16 alone.

Screenshot of Bilibili, Douyin and Kuaishou apps. Photo: KrASIA alt=Screenshot of Bilibili, Douyin and Kuaishou apps. Photo: KrASIA

In e-commerce, the categories that saw the most substantial increase in vendors on Kuaishou during the first half of this year were apparel, local services, homes, cars, and beauty and cosmetics, according to the app's report. Other businesses that took up live-streaming campaigns during the same period included smartphones and education.

China's short video market is currently dominated by Douyin and Kuaishou, with more than 400 million and 300 million daily active users, respectively. Other platforms in this market include Xigua Video from ByteDance and Tencent's Weishi. Tencent super app WeChat also has its own short video feature called WeChat Channels, which helped widen the Shenzhen-based company's reach in the market.

In April, Kuaishou released its second international short video app after Kwai to target users outside China. Snack Video is available on the Google Play app store. Early users and reviewers have pointed out similarities between the new app and TikTok, from its all-black theme to its search function.

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 © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.