Shares in TikTok rival Kuaishou almost triple on market debut

Shares in the Chinese video app Kuaishou almost tripled on the first day of trading in Hong Kong, giving TikTok’s chief rival a market value of £131bn.

The debut of the short-form video site on Hong Kong’s stock exchange on Friday was one of the most eagerly anticipated initial public offerings (IPOs) this year and raised $5.4bn (£4bn), the biggest in the tech sector since Uber raised more than $8bn in 2019.

The company’s stock jumped 194% in early trading on Friday at HK$338 (£31.75) from the initial public offering price of HK$115.

Kuaishou, which made a $1.1bn loss last year, competes in China with ByteDance, the owner of TikTok and its Chinese sister app, Douyin. The company said it had about 300 million daily active users, who spend an average of 86 minutes or more on the app.

It makes money from activity including taking a small cut of the “tips” users leave for the creators who make content they particularly like, which come in the form of virtual gifts such as small digital “stickers” of objects, which account for about 62% of total revenues. Content creators make up about 26% of the app’s 769 million monthly active users.

It also makes money from livestreaming e-commerce, sometimes fronted by celebrities.

Kuaishou’s revenues grew from $1.3bn in 2017 to $6.2bn in the nine months ending 30 September 2020 but it still reported a loss of $1.1bn.

The company is in effect controlled by Su Hua, its chief executive, and Cheng Yixiao, the company’s founder and chief of product, through a special class of stock that gives them 10 times the voting power of ordinary shares.

The stratospheric surge in Kuaishou’s shares has made the value of Hua’s 11.8% stake worth more than $21bn. Yixiao’s 9.2% shareholding is now worth almost $17bn.

Other major shareholders include Tencent, which holds stakes in a vast array of businesses including Universal Music and Spotify. It controls 17.8%, which is now worth $32bn.

Kuaishou was founded in 2012, originally as an app to allow users to make animated gifs, or images, on mobile phones. As smartphone technology swept the market, and mobile networks ramped up to handle large amounts of user data, the company shifted focus towards short videos.

The company’s successful debut will be closely watched by Bytedance, which has previously been rumoured to be considering a flotation in Hong Kong, although recently Chinese tech companies have faced regulatory uncertainty.

In November, the flotation of Jack Ma’s mobile payments firm Ant Group with a dual listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai, which was planned to be the biggest share offering in history, was suspended by Chinese authorities at the last minute.

Last month, Chinese regulators launched an anti-monopoly investigation into Alibaba, the online shopping and cloud computing giant also controlled by Ma.