The US Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing’s botched New York initial public offering, adding to the company’s regulatory woes after Beijing launched a national security probe into the group last year.
Chinese authorities opened an investigation into Didi two days after the company’s $4.4bn IPO last June and forced domestic app stores to remove all of the group’s core services, sending its share price plummeting and putting severe constraints on its ability to sign-up new users.
Revenues were down 12.7 per cent in the fourth quarter and Didi’s stock has fallen more than 85 per cent since its IPO, cutting the value of the stake of SoftBank’s Vision Fund, its largest shareholder, by almost $10bn.
Didi said in its annual report on Monday that “the SEC contacted us and made inquiries in relation to the offering”.
“We are co-operating with the investigation, subject to strict compliance with applicable [China’s] laws and regulations,” the company added, without providing further details on the nature of the investigation.
News of the SEC probe sent its shares sliding 7 per cent in after-hours trading.
Hong Kong-listed shares in Chinese technology companies fell sharply, pushing the Hang Seng Tech index down 3.3 per cent on Wednesday.
The company said it would abandon its US listing following the launch of Beijing’s investigation and relist in Hong Kong. A shareholder vote to approve its plan to delist from the New York Stock Exchange will be held this month.
Didi president Jean Liu, one of China’s highest-profile executives, also made her posts on Chinese social media platform Weibo invisible to her 10mn followers over the weekend.
Liu, who had been Didi’s most public executive, has been targeted by media and online commentators for her perceived role in pushing the company to list in the US.
The intense scrutiny snowballed into attacks on her family, including her father Liu Chuanzhi, founder of computer group Lenovo, who is considered a leading figure in Chinese private enterprise.
Liu Chuanzhi, 78, who has been the subject of frequent online attacks from nationalists in recent months, also moved to hide his Weibo posts. Critics have included Beijing-based political commentator Sima Nan, who has made 30 videos questioning everything from Liu’s remuneration to allegations that he has held back Chinese tech development.
Following the criticism, Lenovo was forced to abandon a plan to list on Shanghai’s tech-focused Star Market last October.
China’s securities regulator punished bankers two months later for attempting to launch the deal, alleging Lenovo did not have the necessary “scientific and technological attributes”.
Didi and the SEC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Additional reporting by Nian Liu in Beijing and Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong