Ant-Backed Bike-Sharing Firm Files Confidentially for IPO

Chinese bike-sharing giant Hello Inc. has confidentially filed for a U.S. initial public offering, according to people familiar with the matter, joining a wave of technology firms seeking to take advantage of surging valuations to sell shares.

Hello, backed by Ant Group Co., has started gauging investor demand recently after submitting its filing in the U.S., the people said, asking to not be identified discussing private information. The startup is working with China International Capital Corp., Credit Suisse Group AG and Morgan Stanley for the listing, according to the people.

The company has yet to decide the size and valuation of the IPO, though IFR has reported that it was examining plans to raise as much as $1 billion. Hello, CICC, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

The Shanghai-based startup -- previously known as Hellobike and sometimes referred to as Hello TransTech -- is one of the few firms to survive China’s bike-sharing bubble, which had attracted billions of dollars in investment at its height before going bust. While one-time rivals such as Ofo have retreated from the industry after incurring huge losses, Hello has transformed itself into a one-stop transportation solution provider, offering everything from smart locks to artificial intelligence-enabled traffic planning and car-pooling.

Founded in 2016, Hello is valued at $5 billion, according to CB Insights, and counts Primavera Capital Group, Fosun International Ltd. and GGV Capital among its backers. The startup has more than 400 million registered users and its bikes can be found in more than 400 cities across China as of October, according to its website.

It faces fierce competition in bike-sharing from larger rivals like Didi Chuxing Technology Co. and Meituan, which took over Mobike in 2018 and has struggled to turn a profit in the business. More recently, the companies have been expanding into electric bicycles, a growing segment of the market. There were more than 6 million shared e-bikes across China as of November, according to BloombergNEF.

Hello’s potential debut comes amid increasing scrutiny by Chinese regulators over the so-called sharing economy. In December, the Ministry of Transport summoned ride-hailing operators including Hello over illegal car-sharing services and safety risks.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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