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Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi files for US IPO

Didi, China’s giant ride-hailing company, filed paperwork for an initial public offering in the United States with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday.

The company, which describes itself as the world’s largest mobility platform, offers ride hailing, taxi and carpooling services in China and other countries, including Brazil and Mexico. Didi is also investing in autonomous driving.

It intends to list on either the New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq, under the ticker DIDI. The filing did not disclose how much the company plans to raise in the IPO.

Didi said it operates in 15 countries, but more than 93% of its sales come from within China. It posted a profit of $837 million in the first three months of this year after losses in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Didi’s US listing is notable amid ongoing US-China tensions. A lot of major Chinese tech firms trade in New York, including Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo, but the environment has gotten a lot more volatile. Over the past couple of years, a flurry of Chinese companies that trade on Wall Street have held secondary listings in Hong Kong so they can establish stronger roots closer to home, citing worsening regulatory hurdles.

Despite the tensions, 2020 still saw some $12 billion raised by Chinese companies from US listings, according to data provider Refinitiv. Nearly $5 billion has been raised by Chinese firms so far in 2021, more than triple the amount reached at this point last year.

Didi acknowledged the risks in its prospectus, writing that there have been “heightened tensions in international economic relations.” It mentioned US-China disputes on trade, Covid-19 and Hong Kong, among other issues.

“Such tensions between the United States and China, and any escalation thereof, may have a negative impact on the general, economic, political, and social conditions in China and, in turn, adversely impacting our business, financial condition, and results of operations,” the company said.

The company has other concerns, too. It said its business has been hit significantly by Covid-19, and the pandemic could continue to impact growth in the future.

“If the situation takes a turn for the worse in China, or if there is not a material recovery in other markets where we operate, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected,” Didi said in its prospectus.

The broadening tech crackdown in China is also a concern. China has lately been cutting its global tech champions down to size, cracking down on antitrust abuses and undue risk taking. Didi in its filing noted that claims or regulatory actions related to anti-monopoly or other concerns “may result in our being subject to fines, constraints on or modification of our business practice, damage to our reputation, and material adverse impact” on finances.

Despite these risks, Didi “could raise around $10 billion and seek a valuation of close to $100 billion,” according to Reuters, which quoted unnamed sources. That would make it the biggest Chinese offering on Wall Street since Alibaba raised $25 billion in 2014. Didi did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN Business.

Didi’s principal shareholders include Softbank’s vision fund and Tencent, according to the SEC filing. Uber owns 12.8% in the company, after it sold its China operations to Didi in a landmark deal in 2016.

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