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BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Smartphone and connected device maker Xiaomi [IPO-XMGP.HK] filed for a Hong Kong initial public offering on Thursday that could raise $ 10 billion and become the largest listing by a Chinese technology firm in almost four years.
Xiaomi’s IPO, which will be one of the first in Hong Kong under new rules to attract tech firm listings, is a major win for the bourse as competition heats up between Hong Kong, New York and the Chinese mainland.
The listing is expected to raise about $ 10 billion via the public offering, giving Beijing-based Xiaomi a market value of between $ 80 billion and $ 100 billion, people familiar with the plans told Reuters.
Those targets, if achieved, will make it the biggest Chinese tech IPO since Chinese internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N) raised $ 21.8 billion in 2014.
Xiaomi’s prospectus gave investors the first detailed look at its financial health ahead of the much-hyped IPO, which could be launched as soon as end-June, according to the people close to the process who requested anonymity as the details were not yet public.
The numbers underscore how Xiaomi has remained resilient even as the global smartphone market has slowed, helped in part by a push overseas into markets like India.
The company said its revenue was 114.62 billion yuan ($ 18 billion) in 2017, up 67.5 percent against 2016. Operating profit for 2017 was 12.22 billion yuan, up from 3.79 billion yuan a year ago.
It made a net loss of 43.89 billion yuan versus a profit of 491.6 million yuan in 2016, though this was impacted by the fair value changes of convertible redeemable preference shares.
Alongside smartphones, Xiaomi makes dozens of internet-connected home appliances and gadgets, including scooters, air purifiers and rice cookers, although it derives most of its profits from internet services.
Xiaomi doubled its shipments in 2017 to become the world’s fourth-largest smartphone maker, according to Counterpoint Research, defying a global slowdown in smartphone sales.
It is also making a big push outside China’s borders, with 28 percent of its sales derived from overseas markets last year, up from 6.1 percent in 2015.
Yet margins on its smartphones are razor-thin. Xiaomi posted a gross profit margin of just 8.8 percent for its smartphone business in 2017 compared to 60 percent for its internet services business.
According to some analyst estimates, Apple’s flagship iPhone X and iPhone 8 have gross margins of around 60 percent.
The company makes the lion’s share of its profit – 60 percent – from internet services, including gaming and advertising linked to its homegrown user interface, MIUI, which had 190 million monthly active users as of March 2018.
Xiaomi’s listing plans come as the company and its investors look to capitalize on a bull run for the Hong Kong market, which has seen the benchmark Hang Seng Index rise about 27 percent over the past year.
Armed with the new rules allowing the listing of companies with dual-class structures, Hong Kong is eyeing several tech listings that are expected in the coming two years from Chinese firms with a combined market cap of $ 500 billion.
Xiaomi said in its IPO application the company would have a weighted voting rights (WVR) structure, or dual-class shares. The WVR give greater power to founding shareholders even with minority shareholding.
The structure would allow the company to benefit from the “continuing vision and leadership” of the dual-class share beneficiaries, who would control the company for its “long-term prospects and strategy”, it said.
Dual-class shares have been a contentious topic in Hong Kong since the city’s strict adherence to a one-share-one-vote principle cost it the float of Alibaba, which instead listed in New York.
Xiaomi is also likely to be among the first Chinese tech firms seeking a secondary listing in its home market, using the planned China depositary receipts route, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
CLSA, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc are sponsoring Xiaomi’s IPO.
($ 1 = 6.3610 Chinese yuan renminbi)
Reporting by Cate Cadell in Beijing, Julie Zhu in Hong Kong and Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru; Writing by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing Stephen Coates
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that it will no longer require employees to resolve sexual-harassment claims through private arbitration, one of the first signs that the legal contracts long used to hide workplace misconduct may be starting to crumble under the pressure of the #MeToo movement.
Roughly 60 million Americans are subject to mandatory arbitration agreements, generally as part of employment contracts they signed when they were hired. The agreements compel employees to address claims through a private arbiter rather than in court, which can keep victims in the dark about prior harassment claims, shield serial abusers, and hide sexual harassment from public scrutiny.
Microsoft says it made the change as it prepared to throw its support behind a bill proposed by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) that would make forced arbitration in harassment cases unenforceable under federal law. “After returning from Washington to Seattle, we also reflected on a second aspect of the issue. We asked ourselves about our own practices and whether we should change any of them,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer wrote on the company’s corporate blog.
Forced arbitration agreements are popular in Silicon Valley, where employers often impose strict confidentiality provisions that keep employment issues private. Now the question is whether other big players will follow Microsoft’s lead.
Amazon says it doesn’t ask employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements. A Facebook spokesperson says the company is looking into the Graham-Gillibrand proposal and referred to the company’s harassment policy. Uber, Google, and Apple did not immediately respond to questions from WIRED about arbitration agreements for sexual harassment or their support for the new bill. Uber’s employment contracts include a binding arbitration clause, but the company now gives employees 30 days to opt-out of that clause, Uber told WIRED in June.
Confidentiality provisions, including nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) and non-disparagement clauses, came under fire after news reports revealed how these contracts were used to shield serial abusers like Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, and Roger Ailes, by silencing victims.
Earlier this month, experts told WIRED that reforming these contracts would help pierce the secrecy around sexual harassment. Both former Uber engineer Susan Fowler and former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson have identified forced arbitration clauses as legal impediments for harassment victims. Fowler, whose harassment allegations led to the ouster of former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in August in support of an ongoing Supreme Court case to determine whether forced arbitration violates federal law. Carlson, who sued Ailes for sexual harassment, joined Graham and Gillibrand at a press conference introducing their bill earlier this month.
Microsoft’s public stand against secrecy follows a Bloomberg story last week about a rape claim from a female Microsoft intern, which came to light as part of a two-year-old class-action lawsuit against Microsoft for gender discrimination.
The rape allegation from the Microsoft intern emerged in recently unsealed documents in the class action suit. According to Bloomberg, the intern was required to keep working alongside her alleged rapist while the company investigated her claim.
The policy change may be relatively simpler to implement at Microsoft, which typically does not include arbitration agreements in its employment contracts. In his blog post, Smith said a review found that only “a small segment” of its 125,000 employees “have contractual clauses requiring pre-dispute arbitration for harassment claims in employment agreements.” That covers a few hundred people. A Microsoft spokesperson says the company also will not compel arbitration related to gender discrimination, which is included in the proposed legislation.