China’s iQIYI Takes Further Step Toward IPO (Report)

Chinese video streaming giant iQIYI is edging nearer to an IPO in the U.S. The company could seek to raise $1 billion of fresh capital.

International Financing Review, part of Thomson Reuters, said Tuesday that the company had confidentially filed documents for the share sale. iQIYI declined to comment when contacted by Variety.

The report is in line with earlier details which emerged late last year. In September, Bloomberg reported that the company was seeking an $8-10 billion value on flotation. In October, IFR said that iQIYI had retained Bank of America, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs to advise on the listing.

Roughly 80% owned by NASDAQ-listed Baidu, China’s leading search-engine group, iQIYI operates a mixture of ad-supported and subscription services. It had 481 million monthly active users at the end of 2016, and is believed to have since increased its paying subscriber base to more than 60 million since then.

The company has been loss-making as it carved out market position and as it invested heavily in a mixture of original and acquired content. In 2017, iQIYI raised $1.3 billion from backers including Hillhouse Capital, IDG and Sequoia Capital for ongoing content spend.

Among the three streaming leaders in China, iQIYI has been forecast by JP Morgan to become the first to move into profitability, possibly as early as this year. But at this point its valuation remains a guesstimate. In 2016 iQIYI’s founder, Gong Yu, and Baidu co-founder Robin Li together tried to take the company private and buy the company from Baidu. Their $2.8-billion offer was challenged by U.S. investors and quickly withdrawn.

There are also question marks over the appetite of U.S. investors for Chinese companies. Several hundred have listed in the U.S., but many have lost support. Some have de-listed in the U.S. and then relisted on exchanges either in Hong Kong or in mainland China.

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