Alibaba Alum Becomes Billionaire With IPO for China Startup

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Former Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. employee Zhang Hui is the latest Chinese entrepreneur to join the ranks of billionaires after his Uber-like trucking startup went public Tuesday in New York.

Zhang, the founder and chairman of Full Truck Alliance Co., has a stake worth about $2.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as shares in the Chinese company closed at $21.50 in New York Stock Exchange trading -- a 13% increase over the IPO price. Zhang, 42, owns 9.2% of the firm, which operates a truck-sharing app that connects merchants and drivers.

He’s the most recent in a line of entrepreneurs who amassed vast fortunes after starting their own businesses following stints at tech giants such as Alibaba and Tencent Holdings Ltd. He’s also the most recent example of how Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group Corp., the company’s largest shareholder, is helping to create billionaires in the region.

“Many of China’s newly minted billionaires are the beneficiaries of recent IPOs,” said Brock Silvers, chief investment officer of Kaiyuan Capital in Hong Kong. “SoftBank has effectively used scale and capital access to secure a good number of investments, and has taken impressive advantage of booming global equity markets.”

Full Truck Alliance didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Zhang is following in the footsteps of Cheng Wei, a co-founder of Chinese ride-hailing unicorn Didi who also worked at Alibaba before setting up his own venture. Cheng could be worth as much as $6.7 billion when Didi goes public in the U.S. this year, based on reported valuations in the secondary market. Leaf Hua Li, who founded online brokerage Futu Holdings Ltd., became a billionaire on the back of a surge in retail trading during the pandemic last year. He was Tencent’s 18th founding employee.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund has a 20% stake in Full Truck Alliance that’s worth about $4.7 billion. Other investors include Tencent and Sequoia Capital China.

Full Truck Alliance was the world’s largest digital freight platform by gross transaction value in 2020, the company said in its prospectus, citing a China Insights Consultancy report. About 2.8 million truckers fulfilled shipping orders last year covering more than 300 cities across China as of the end of 2020, the prospectus said. The company had 1.3 million active shippers in December, it said.

Zhang studied electronic engineering before working as a regional manager at Alibaba’s business-to-business unit. He founded Yunmanman in 2013. That merged with another truck platform, Huochebang, to become Full Truck Alliance in 2017.

Full Truck Alliance raised about $1.6 billion in the initial public offering, making it one of the biggest by a Chinese company this year.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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