The company is currently listed on the U.S.’s NASDAQ exchange, and the move to create a secondary listing in Hong Kong is seen as a defensive measure, as well as a fund-raising exercise. American legislators have called for the removal of Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges if they fail to meet U.S. audit standards.
The company has been grilled by Hong Kong stock regulators and filed a 455-page, heavily redacted document known as a Post Hearing Information Pack. An accompanying statement shows that NetEase will sell shares at a maximum price of HK126 apiece, and raise $2.8 billion. If the issue proves popular with investors at the subscription stage, NetEase may expand the issue to $3.1 billion.
The company plans to use the net proceeds from the offering for globalization strategies and opportunities, fueling continued pursuit of innovation, and general corporate purposes,” it said blandly.
NetEase has produced some of China’s most renowned and longest running online PC-client games, including “Fantasy Westward Journey Online” and “New Westward Journey Online II,” as well as other highly successful games, such as “Tianxia III,” “New Ghost” and “Justice.” In partnership with Blizzard Entertainment, NetEase operates some of the most popular international online games in China, including “World of Warcraft,” “Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft,” “StarCraft II” and “Diablo III: Reaper of Souls.”
The stock offer, which would be one of the largest share issues this year, comes at a time of rising tension between the U.S. and China on a wide range of issues, ranging from blame for the coronavirus to China’s technological prowess. And it comes barely a week after China rattled capital markets and western democracies by deciding to impose a national security law in Hong Kong and bypass the legislative system in the territory.
The possible move to oust Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges is symbolic of the growing antagonism between the U.S. and China. But it would be damaging to the Chinese firms if they were no longer able to access capital markets.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba launched one of the biggest share issues of last year when it supplemented its New York Stock Exchange share quote with a secondary listing in Hong Kong. Another U.S.-listed e-commerce firm JD.com is also reported to moving towards a Hong Kong secondary listing.
Monday saw NetEase’s NASDAQ-traded ADRs gain by 3.6% to $397.59. One NetEase ADR is equivalent to 25 ordinary shares.