After LianBio, Chinese IPOs Pick up Pace

FWD Group and Atour Lifestyle are back in the run-up to IPO in New York, though both warn of regulatory risks.
Nov. 02, 2021 14:30
After LianBio, Chinese IPOs Pick up Pace

(CapitalWatch, Nov. 2, New York) LianBio (Nasdaq: LIAN) paved the way for the comeback of Chinese listings in New York on Monday, and more Chinese listings are coming. FWD Group and Atour Lifestyle have both picked up their IPO efforts, having updated their filings with the U.S. SEC.

The first, FWD Group Holdings Ltd. publicly filed for a U.S. listing just in September, after Beijing had already tightened its user data laws. In its filings, FWD Group noted specifically that it does not have "any substantive operations in mainland China" and "the laws and regulations of the PRC do not currently have any material impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations."

However, the company added that should PRC laws become applicable to its Hong Kong-based business, that may lead to an adverse impact. Specifically, FWD Group cited the new PRC Data Security Law, Cybersecurity Review, and rules applying to PCAOB auditing.

FWD Group has yet to set the terms for its IPO; a number of investors have subscribed for a cumulative $500 million worth of shares. These include $300 million from the Li Ka Shing Foundation, $100 million from PCCW Ltd. (OTC: PCWLF; HKEX: 0008), and $100 million from PCGI Holdings Ltd. In addition, concurrently with the IPO, Athene Holding Ltd. is to indirectly acquire $400 million worth of shares in FWD Group.

The company, a Pan-Asian life insurer controlled by Hong Kong tycoon Richard Li, hired big banks to its listing including Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC, J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, HSBC Securities (USA) Inc., and CMB International Capital Ltd. Also participating are SMBC Nikko Securities America Inc. and CCB International Capital Ltd.

In 2020, FWD Group recorded $9.5 billion in revenue and $252 million in losses. In the half-year through June, the insurer booked $6 billion in revenues, up 54% year-over-year, and turned up a net profit of $205 million.

As to the hotel chain operator Atour Lifestyle Holdings Ltd., it first filed for an IPO back in June and recently picked up where it left off. The company has set a price range of $13.50 to $15.50 per share, offering 19.7 million of its American depositary shares. At the top of the range, Atour would raise $305.4 million.

Atour has attracted a keystone investor: Hillhouse Group, through its affiliates, has offered to buy $120 million worth of shares in the IPO, according to the prospectus updated Monday.

Underwriters are BofA Securities Inc., Citigroup Global Markets Inc., CICC Hong Kong Securities, and CMB International. Futu Inc., Redbridge Securities LLC, and SNB Finance are also participating.

Atour was founded in 2013 by Haijun Wang, former executive vice president at Chinese hotel chain Huazhu Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: HTHT; HKEX: 1179). Atour is backed by Asia's largest travel booking platform, Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: TCOM).

In the half-year through June, Atour booked $153.4 million in revenue on income of $10.9 million. In the full year 2020, revenue reached $244.8 million while income was $5.9 million, according to the prospectus.

Funds from the IPO will expand Atour's hotel network in China, boost its service offerings and enhance branding. A portion of the proceeds will be used for IT and technology, including digital operating systems and data analytics.

Like FWD Group, Atour noted investment risks "associated with regulatory approvals of offshore offerings, anti-monopoly regulatory actions, oversight on cybersecurity and data privacy, as well as the lack of PCAOB inspection on our auditors."

As of Tuesday morning, neither Atour nor FWD Group were on the list of scheduled IPOs.