Wednesday, 30 Sep 2020

Beike owner KE open to secondary Hong Kong or mainland listing after U.S. IPO

BEIJING (Reuters) – KE Holdings, operator of housing platforms Beike Zhaofang and Lianjia, is open to a secondary listing in Hong Kong or mainland China, after raising around $2 billion on Thursday in the biggest U.S. IPO by a Chinese company in two years.

The U.S. listing went ahead despite escalating tensions between the world’s largest economies, with Washington proposing new rules that will force Chinese firms which do not meet U.S. accounting standards to delist by 2022.

“Being listed in multiple venues is a capital market strategy. It will be very common in the future,” KE’s chief executive Stanley Peng told Reuters in an interview, adding that it has no timetable planned.

Should KE pursue this path, it would follow Chinese counterparts Alibaba Group (9988.HK), JD.com 9618.HK and NetEase 9999.HK which have all obtained secondary listings in Hong Kong since November.

Peng said tensions between the United States and China had not had a big impact on Beike’s U.S. listing plans and he saw the possibility of a delisting as a “worst case scenario” and very unlikely to happen.

KE’s BEKE.N existing investors, including SoftBank (9434.T) and Tencent (0700.HK), were very supportive of the U.S. listing.

KE, valued at $23 billion after the IPO, launched Lianjia, formerly known as Beijing Homelink Real Estate Brokerage, 19 years ago.

It grew into one of China’s largest bricks-and-mortar property firms and later set up Beike as a separate online housing platform which matches buyers and sellers, renters and landlords, as well as providing home finance.

It also offers virtual-reality home viewing via the Beike app, which has seen its usage grew more than 10 times during the COVID-19 pandemic, Peng said.

KE decided to expand further into decor after the coronavirus pandemic made Chinese residents more concerned about home interiors and their functionality, he added.

“(It) changed things and the changing trend will be inevitable,” Peng said, adding that KE plans to keep expanding in China’s nine major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Wuhan, Chongqing as lower-cities were less profitable for real-estate brokers.

For the six months ended June, KE’s prospectus showed it had a net profit of 1.61 billion yuan ($228 million), compared with a 2.18 billion yuan net loss for the whole of 2019.

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