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China's Zhihu starts Hong Kong dual primary listing

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By Scott Murdoch

HONG KONG, April 11 (Reuters) - Chinese question-and-answer website Zhihu Inc opened its bookbuilding process on Monday to raise $133 million in a dual primary listing in Hong Kong, according to its regulatory filings and a term sheet seen by Reuters.

The deal comes amid a regulatory standoff between Washington and Beijing over access to Chinese company audits, a dispute that is casting doubt on the fuure of those companies listed in the United States.

Zhihu, which listed in New York in March last year, is selling 26 million existing shares in the Hong Kong deal, which will be finalised on Thursday, the filings showed.

Four major shareholders, led by investors Capital Today and Innovation Works, are selling some of their stakes in Zhihu, according to the term sheet.

Zhihu did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

With Zhihu's service, users publicly post questions to which others offer replies.

An increasing number of Chinese firms listed in the U.S are considering secondary or dual primary listings in Hong Kong in case U.S. delistings are ordered, sources have previously told Reuters.

Washington is demanding complete access to the books of U.S-listed Chinese companies, but Beijing has previously barred foreign inspection of working papers from local accounting firms.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission said earlier this month it would revise the confidentiality rules involving offshore listings, which could remove a legal hurdle to the company-audit standoff.

The proposal centres on scrapping requirements that on-site inspection of overseas-listed Chinese companies be conducted mainly by Chinese regulators.

The move could allow inspections by U.S. regulators who demand complete access to such firms' audit working papers, which are stored in China.

Zhihu's New York listed shares have fallen 53.8% so far in 2022. (Reporting by Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong; editing by Bradley Perrett)