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Chinese firms trying to leave US markets are now stuck in limbo

Reuters/China Stringer Network
Time to weigh those options.
  • Josh Horwitz
By Josh Horwitz

Asia Correspondent

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

The dire state of China’s stock markets has placed many US-listed Chinese firms in a conundrum. As of March, over 20 US-listed Chinese firms announced they had received buyout offers to de-list in the US, likely the first step to re-listing back home.

But since China’s stock markets have tumbled and IPOs were blocked last week, the firms have seen their share prices in the US drop even further.

In late June Qihoo 360, the high-profile anti-virus firm, received a buyout offer from its CEO reportedly priced at $18 billion. When the offer was made public, Qihoo’s stock price jumped 6.2% to $70.15. Following the Chinese government’s close-out of domestic IPOs, the stock price dropped 6.18% on Monday and 7.08% on Tuesday. It’s now trading at $58.63, below its price before the buyout offer was announced.

Momo, a popular Chinese dating app, received a buyout offer on June 22 led by its co-founder, Sequoia Capital, and Matrix Partners. The following day, its stock price jumped 9.88% to $17.24. It’s now at $13.96, the lowest the stock has traded at since mid-May.

Other Chinese firms listed in the US have taken a hit as well. Since July 2, share prices for Renren, a Facebook-esque social network turned internet conglomerate, have sunk 9.2%. Dating site Jiayuan tumbled 16% percent during the same period.  Cloud services 21Vianet group fell 19.38%, and mobile app maker Sungy Mobile tanked 11.92%.

Privatization deals can take six months to a year to complete, so the possibility of a market downturn was probably a consideration for these companies before they announced buyouts.

But the suspension of IPOs last week effectively shut the door on these firms just as they were preparing to leave, and there’s no telling when it will re-open. The higher valuations that these firms were hoping for from the Chinese markets are now unlikely—the Shenzhen’s tech-centric ChiNext composite has lost 39% of its value since its June 12 peak.

While US-listed firms are likely crossing their fingers that an upswing will happen sooner rather than later, that looks unlikely: many believe China’s stock markets still have a ways to go before they bottom out.

Now, these companies could be stuck in the US indefinitely, and things are awkward. The Chinese firms that were looking to privatize have made it clear they aren’t enthusiastic about US investors. And US investors are losing enthusiasm for these companies as well.

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