Didi, China’s leading rideshare platform, debuted on Wall Street on Wednesday, ending a year in which ridesharing and travel companies have struggled to overcome intermittent pandemic lockdowns.
Didi started trading at $ 16.82 a share on the New York Stock Exchange, up 20% from the offering price of $ 14 a share. But investor interest cooled throughout the day, and Didi closed at $ 14.20, pegging the firm’s value at over $ 69 billion.
The company debuted under the ticker DIDI, as Wall Street continues to embrace fast-growing tech companies regardless of their ability to generate profits. Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, in particular, have proven to be stupendous money losers, often burning billions of dollars each year.
Didi is no exception. It lost $ 1.6 billion last year, although it reported a profit of $ 30 million in the first quarter of this year. Revenue fell 8% to $ 21.63 billion last year due to the pandemic, the company said on a regulatory filing.
Despite its dominance in China and other countries, Didi could face unusual scrutiny from investors due to lingering tensions between the United States and China. The US government has placed some Chinese tech companies on lists that restrict their ability to do business with the United States or its trading partners.
“Didi, for better or for worse, is at the center of the cold technology war between the United States and China,” said Daniel Ives, general manager of equity research at Wedbush Securities. “It’s a successful IPO coming out of doors,” he said, but it still has a lot to prove to investors worried about tensions between countries.
Investors might also be wary of regulators in Didi’s home country. Chinese antitrust authorities have started to aggressively scrutinize the country’s large internet companies. Last year, Chinese regulators began cracking down on what they called unfair and anti-competitive business practices in the internet industry.
“Chinese regulators already have them in their sights,” said David Trainer, managing director of New Constructs, an investment research firm.
A group of the taxi industry wrote the country’s antitrust watchdog in December, urging the agency to reconsider Didi’s takeover of Uber’s China business in 2016. It had already investigation the sale for antitrust reasons without any action being taken. The letter accused Didi of using unfair subsidies to detain passengers and issue transport orders to unlicensed drivers and vehicles.
As of April, Didi was one of some three dozen Chinese internet companies carried in front of the regulators and ordered to ensure their respect for anti-monopoly rules and to “put the interests of the nation first”.
Didi quickly issued a statement, which the antitrust regulator published on its website, swearing to “promote the development and prosperity of socialist culture and science” and to strictly obey the law. Regulatory pressure has raised questions about whether Didi would be allowed to grow enough to be consistently profitable, Mr Trainer said.
Both Didi and Uber have made Latin America a focal point for their global expansion. But the region continues to know increased number of coronavirus cases, potentially throwing a wrench into growth plans.
“How are they going to do in places like Africa, the Middle East or South America? Are you going to hail a Didi or an Uber? Said Drew Bernstein, co-chairman of Marcum BP, an Asian-focused audit and advisory firm.
Didi Dache was founded in Beijing in 2012 and merged with Chinese rival Kuaidi Dache in 2015 to form Didi Chuxing. In China, Didi’s rise mirrored that of other tech powerhouses, including ByteDance, the parent of TikTok, and food delivery giant Meituan.
Although Uber tried to compete in the Chinese market, it ultimately sold its Chinese business to Didi in exchange for a stake in the company. Now that Didi is public, Uber’s stake is worth around $ 8 billion.
Of them separate incidents in 2018, during which Didi drivers raped and killed female passengers, the company make changes at its service but has not seriously spoiled its appeal to users. Yet even though dozens of companies large and small have entered the grocery booking industry in China, Didi has remained a leader.
Although Didi is dominant in China and operates in 14 other countries, including Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Russia, its valuation is significantly lower than Uber’s $ 94 billion. But unlike Uber when it first started trading two years ago, Didi was able to stay above its IPO price on its first day of trading. Didi surpasses Lyft, the second-largest rideshare company in the United States, which is valued at nearly $ 20 billion.
Didi said he has the ability to expand further as he expands his business to new international markets. “We aspire to become a truly global technology company,” wrote Didi founders Cheng Wei and Jean Liu in a letter attached to their regulatory brief.
Didi was valued at $ 56 billion in 2017, and its investors include SoftBank of Japan; Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi state fund; Alibaba and Tencent, the two main Internet Goliaths in China; and Apple, which invested $ 1 billion in 2016 to show its support for the Chinese market.
A number of Chinese companies have sold shares on US stock exchanges in recent months, including those in industries, such as electric vehicles, which have been trapped in trade tensions between Washington and Beijing. Chinese electric car maker Nio raised $ 2.6 billion in a December offering on the New York Stock Exchange.
Before stepping down this year, President Donald J. Trump Americans banned invest in companies identified as having links with the Chinese military. But his administration did not move forward with efforts to curb access to US capital markets for a wider range of Chinese companies.