Meilishuo, the online fashion retailer backed by Tencent, is in talks with several investment banks about a US initial public offering that could value the startup at about R48.3 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. The women-focused online retailer hosted a bake-off to discuss IPO prospects with potential advisors and underwriters, the people said, asking not to be identified talking about private negotiations.
Meilishuo, which merged with rival Mogujie in 2016 to form a company with R36.2 billion in sales, was said to have been valued at R36.2 billion at the time of that deal. The company, whose name means “Beauty Talk,” is one of the more popular fashion and cosmetics retailers online, a niche it’s clung to despite the dominance of Alibaba Group and JD.com. Meilishuo’s envisioned R48.3 billion valuation is an initial target and could change if a deal proceeds, the people said.
It’s one in a growing wave of Chinese technology companies looking to sell shares to the public. Smartphone maker Xiaomi is seeking a valuation of as much as R1.2 trillion in a much-anticipated offering, people familiar with the matter have said, while Meituan Dianping, a Chinese food review and delivery giant also backed by Tencent, has begun discussions about a Hong Kong IPO at a valuation of at least R724.1 billion.
“Tencent wants to develop e-commerce via its partners, so Meilishuo could get a lot of resources and help,” said Li Yujie, an analyst with RHB Research Institute Sdn in Hong Kong. “It still depends on how the overall market performs, but e-commerce sector-wise it would be a good year to fetch a good valuation.”
Meilishuo, which didn’t respond to requests for comment, was said to have considered a US listing as early as two years ago. Most of China’s largest tech corporations have picked New York for their debuts, seeking the wide investor base and higher international profile that an American listing confers. Beijing however is now encouraging many of those same firms to also list shares on Chinese exchanges.
Founded in 2009, Meilishuo runs an online marketplace selling clothes, shoes and handbags. As of 2016, it had about 15 000 merchants on its website and a mobile application that had been downloaded 100 million times. That year, it merged with Mogujie, founded in 2011 with about 130 million registered users.
© 2018 Bloomberg L.P