Baidu, the tech giant that operates China’s leading web search engine and is majority owner of the iQIYI streaming platform, is reported to be seeking $3.5 billion through a secondary share listing in Hong Kong.
The move has not been confirmed by the company itself, though Bloomberg identified CLSA and Goldman Sachs as the investment banks it had selected to manage the new listing and share sale.
The possible development coincided with news that the New York Stock Exchange had changed policy for the second time in a week, confirming that it will go ahead with the delisting of China’s three largest telcos in response to a November executive order from U.S. president Donald Trump. Baidu has been listed on the NASDAQ exchange since 2005 and currently has a market capitalization of $71 billion.
American authorities, however, are putting mounting pressure on U.S.-listed Chinese companies, causing several to consider share listings in other jurisdictions. Alibaba achieved a secondary listing in Hong Kong in November 2019, and other tech firms including NetEase and JD.com are reported to be making plans.
The Trump regime has signed off on legislation that would disbar foreign firms unless they open their books to U.S. financial auditors. Trump also used executive orders to stop U.S. firms from investing in companies with connections to the Chinese military, to force the sale of part Chinese-owned TikTok, and to bar Americans from using Chinese payment apps including Alibaba’s AliPay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay.
In recent days, financial industry sources have reported that the Trump administration wants to go one step further and ban U.S. investments in Alibaba and Tencent.
Until a few years ago, Baidu was frequently bracketed with Alibaba and Tencent as a trio of Chinese tech leaders, commonly known as “BAT.” The company has stumbled, become too heavily dependent on advertising revenue, and fallen behind its two compatriots of late. It sees itself catching up through investments in artificial intelligence, cloud computing and electric vehicles.
On Friday, it was reported that Baidu has struck a deal to create a standalone electric vehicle company in partnership with Geely, a leading Chinese car-maker. Geely would handle manufacturing, while Baidu would design and fit the electronics.
Baidu has already tested driverless car control software in Beijing using taxis. Like its American counterpart Google, Baidu also has well-developed map and voice assistant software.