China’s iQiyi Readies IPO to Raise $1.5 Billion

The video-streaming unit of search-engine giant Baidu needs capital to fund content development as it competes with Tencent and Alibaba.
Matthew HellerFebruary 28, 2018

Chinese video-streaming service iQiyi has filed for a $1.5 billion initial public offering in the U.S. to raise capital for developing more content in a highly competitive market.

iQiyi’s controlling shareholder, search-engine giant Baidu, has substantially funded its operations since launching the service in 2010. It claims to be China’s largest video-streaming service by amount of time spent watching, but faces fierce competition from Tencent Video and Alibaba’s Youku Tudou service.

“We compete for users, usage time and advertising customers,” iQiyi said in a regulatory filing. “Some of our competitors have a longer operating history and significantly greater financial resources than we do.”

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The filing said iQiyi offers a “leading technology platform powered by advanced AI, big data analytics and other core proprietary technologies. Our core proprietary technologies are critical to producing content that caters to user tastes, delivering superior entertainment experience to our users.”

iQiyi raised $1.53 billion last year after investors balked at a $2.3 billion buyout bid from a group led by Baidu Chief Executive Robin Li, saying the proposal undervalued the unit. Baidu gave the company an interest-free $100 million loan last month, according to the filing.

Analysts at Jefferies have valued iQiyi at $17 billion. The company posted revenue of 17.4 billion RMB in 2017 ($2.7 billion), up 55% on the previous year, but it has yet to turn a profit, losing 3.7 billion RMB ($574 million) last year.

“A tough competitive environment and the costs of providing content have made streaming a money-losing proposition for Baidu, as well as for its internet rivals Tencent and Alibaba,” The Wall Street Journal said.

iQiyi said it plans to use 50% of the proceeds from the IPO “to expand and enhance our content offerings.” The Chinese video market is forecast to expand from 22 billion RMB ($3.5 billion) in 2015 to 96.2 billion ($15.2 billion) RMB by 2020, according to IHS Markit.

“The online entertainment industry in China has grown rapidly and the growth is expected to continue,” iQiyi said in its filing, noting that video is the leading online entertainment format.

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