Didi of China Moves to Delist From New York Stock Exchange
The ride-hailing giant made an abrupt shift as officials in Washington and Beijing have grown increasingly skeptical of Chinese corporate access to Wall Street’s money.,
Didi Chuxing, the Chinese Uber-like ride-hailing champion and a company once considered the world’s most successful start-up, said Friday that it would begin delisting its New York-traded shares and prepare for a public offering in Hong Kong.
The move is sure to reverberate outside China, particularly in Washington and on Wall Street. Just in June, Didi sold shares to global investors in an initial public offering in New York that valued the company at $69 billion. The abrupt turn after just six months is likely to anger investors, who bid up the price of the company this summer when it listed.
In a statement in China, Didi said its board had authorized beginning the process of delisting from the New York Stock Exchange. The securities that trade in the United States will be “convertible into freely tradable shares” of the company on another stock exchange, it said.
“The company will organize a shareholders’ meeting to vote on the above matter at an appropriate time in the future, following necessary procedures,” Didi said.
The shift comes as officials in the United States and China alike take an increasingly skeptical view of the access that Chinese companies have long enjoyed to Wall Street and its money.
Beijing’s top leaders are also moving to assert greater control over Didi and the private technology sector. While some analysts have applauded long-needed regulatory measures to control consumer data and end anticompetitive practices, others worry the moves may damage the competitiveness of the country’s dynamic private technology giants.
Chinese officials have rushed to reassure investors about the importance of private industry, but China’s efforts to tame its internet giants has already worried investors that a push for social control will only extend deeper into the economy.
The line between private and state control has already blurred under Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, as new emphasis has been given to the development of Chinese Communist Party committees within private firms. Beijing has recently set strict new limits on video-game time for children, crushed the after-school education industry and set limits on online celebrity fandom.
At the same time, an antitrust campaign aimed at the technology industry has left untouched state-run monopolies that dominate key sectors like energy, telecommunications and banking.
With 377 million active users a year in China and services in 16 other countries, Didi Chuxing has been celebrated in China as a homegrown tech champion. It vanquished its American rival, Uber, and bought that company’s Chinese operations in 2016. Promises to use its banks of data to unsnarl traffic and develop driverless car technologies made its executives icons as Chinese officials called for building a more innovative economy.
The delisting is likely to increase investor concerns about what seems to be a growing hostility by Chinese officials toward domestic companies that list shares on overseas exchanges. China’s taming of the internet giants picked up speed last year after regulators thwarted an I.P.O. of Ant Group, the fintech giant and Alibaba sister company.
Like Didi, Ant had gone ahead with a share listing despite a history of regulatory concerns. Other firms that may have eyed the United States’ red-hot equity market as a way to easily raise money are now likely to content themselves with China’s capital markets.
Beijing’s sudden clampdown on Didi jolted the company’s new Wall Street shareholders. A listing on Wall Street, such as Alibaba’s record-breaking one in 2014, was once seen in China as an ultimate validation of a company’s business achievements. Since its blockbuster initial public offering this summer, Didi’s share price has roughly halved in value.
In a series of rebukes to Didi, Chinese regulators followed up its megabucks listing with several regulatory slaps. Worried that the listing meant Didi might transfer sensitive data on Chinese riders to the United States, regulators forced the company to halt registering new users two days after the I.P.O. as they began a cybersecurity review of its practices.
Shortly after, officials ordered a halt to downloads of Didi’s main, consumer-facing application, before broadening the block to 25 more of the company’s apps, including its car-pooling app, its finance app and its app for corporate customers. At the time, it said the suspensions were due to problems with the collection and use of personal data, without elaborating.
Even before its listing, Didi was hard pressed to avoid regulatory scrutiny. At the end of March, regulators in the southern city of Guangzhou ordered it and nine other companies to compete fairly and not use consumers’ personal data to charge them higher prices.
A month later, Didi was among three dozen Chinese internet firms that regulators ordered to obey antimonopoly rules. In May, transportation regulators told Didi and other platforms to ensure fairness and transparency when it came to pricing and drivers’ incomes.