China Vaping Firm More Than Doubles in Trading Debut

Chinese e-cigarette maker RLX Technology Inc. jumped 146% in its trading debut after raising $1.4 billion in a U.S. initial public offering.

RLX Technology’s American depositary shares closed at $29.51 Friday, giving the company a market value of about $46 billion.

The company, backed by Sequoia Capital China, sold 116.5 million shares for $12 apiece on Thursday after marketing them for $8 to $10.

The IPO was led by Citigroup Inc. and China Renaissance Holdings Ltd. The company’s ADS, each representing one ordinary share, are trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol RLX.

The IPO, the first major U.S. listing this year by a China-based company, signals continuing investor demand, even as deteriorating U.S.-China relations saw the NYSE earlier this month delist three Chinese telecommunications firms blacklisted in December in an executive order by then-U.S. President Donald Trump.

The sparring between Washington and Beijing is set to broadly limit Chinese companies’ access to U.S. capital markets, after Trump signed a law last year that could lead to them being kicked off U.S. exchanges if American regulators can’t vet their audit papers.

Still, the moves appeared to have little discernible effect on Chinese companies’ thirst for U.S. capital.

Almost $15 billion was raised by Chinese IPOs on U.S. exchanges in 2020, the second-most on record, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Many of those deals were either increased in size or priced above their marketed ranges following overwhelming demand from investors.

RLX, founded in 2018, is China’s largest e-cigarette maker with 62.6% of the country’s market, according to a report by China Insights Consultancy cited in the company’s IPO prospectus.

Known for its RELX-branded devices, the company currently only sells its products in China, accordinfg to its prospectus.

The vaping industry has boomed in China even as the country banned online sales of e-cigarettes just over a year ago. China has joined other countries globally in putting pressure on vaping amid concerns about its potential health effects.

China is the world’s largest potential vaping market, with an estimated 286.7 million adult smokers in 2019, RLX said in its prospectus. But vaping products only have a 1.2% penetration rate, compared with 32.4% in the U.S.

Another Chinese e-cigarette maker, Smoore International Holdings Ltd., listed in Hong Kong last year and has soared over 500% from its offer price.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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