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Xiaomi to seek $50-bn valuation in IPO

While banks have talked up Xiaomi's prospects as they seek to win the mandate, they have concerns about whether the company can reach the $50 billion level

Peter Elstrom & Lulu Yilun Chen | Bloomberg 

Xiaomi
The Beijing-based firm is considering an offering as soon as next year with banks suggesting Hong Kong as the most likely destination

Xiaomi, the maker that was once the most valuable start-up in the world, is in talks with investment banks about a possible initial public offering and seeking a valuation of at least $50 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.
 
The Beijing-based company is considering an offering as soon as next year with banks suggesting as the most likely destination, said the people, requesting not to be named because the matter is private. 

While banks have talked up Xiaomi’s prospects as they seek to win the mandate, they have concerns about whether the company can reach the $50 billion level, much less a $100 billion target that some top executives have embraced, the people said.

last raised money in 2014 at a $46 billion valuation. has gained momentum in recent months after stumbling against local rivals such as and The company, led by Lei Jun, has invested aggressively in retail stores and in India. It’s now on the verge of surpassing Samsung Electronics in the country, the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market. A successful IPO may bring it at least $5 billion, much-needed ammunition for expansion, the people said. 

“We want to transplant China’s business ideas into other countries,” Lei said Monday at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, without commenting on an IPO. “In India, we’ve created a miracle. After only three years, we’ve become number one.”

Kaylene Hong, a spokeswoman, says the company does not comment on IPO matters. The Information reported earlier that is considering an IPO as early as the second half of 2018.

While the company has had ups and downs, the $50 billion target may be attainable, depending on business performance and market trends over the next few months. 

“It’s not a preposterous valuation,” said Keith Pogson, global assurance leader for banking and capital markets in at consultant EY. “Without a doubt, the market is hot for tech companies, especially tech with China ties.”

Founded in 2010, Xiaomi, or Little Rice, made its mark with buzzy online marketing campaigns, eschewing traditional retail stores.

By 2014, its formula of flash sales and savvy social media helped it top rankings and amass the valuation that made it briefly the highest in the world, before it was surpassed by Uber Technologies Lei, who often sported black turtlenecks, was compared with Apple’s Steve Jobs.

But stumbled last year, with shipments plunging against fierce local competition. The firm ranked only fifth in Chinese phone shipments in the first quarter, according to research firm IDC. and counterpart Vivo punished the firm by developing strong ties with retailers in small towns and rural areas of China. Lei has revived the firm by expanding its product line, geographic reach and sales channels. is making a major push into old-fashioned retail: it plans to build 1,000 
Home” stores by 2019 — about twice Apple’s global store count — targeting 70 billion yuan ($10 billion) of retail sales by 2021. An IPO may help retain employees who have stuck with the firm through the tough times.

In January, Hugo Barra, a former Google executive who had spent three and a half years at Xiaomi, returned to Silicon Valley for a job at Facebook Inc.

“Employees will love to hear the company is finally planning an IPO,” said James Yan, an analyst with consultancy Counterpoint.

Lei has bet heavily on overseas expansion, especially in India. In an interview in March, he said would double its investment in the country, spending another $500 million over the next three to five years.

Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 4 sold about 250,000 units within minutes on India’s top online retailer Flipkart.com as well as its own online site, the company said. The Beijing-based company hit $1 billion in Indian revenue for 2016.
 
“Our path towards internationalization began four years ago,” Lei said Monday through a translator. “At first we faced many difficulties. In 2015 we lost around 1 billion or more yuan – a great loss caused because we were starting in so many countries. After that we set on an idea of whether we could build an example market and we settled on India. Three years later we’re in over 60 countries.”
 
is focusing on emerging markets including Russia and Indonesia. The company has said it also intends to establish a presence in the US., where it’s held off on selling phones in favor of devices such as fitness bands. is now aiming to ship 100 million next year, reviving a target it had abandoned during its difficult days.

“We’ve been seeing the rise of Chinese brands,” Lei said. “In the next ten years, the large number of Chinese brands will continue to grow and become – the trend is quite clear.”

First Published: Tue, December 05 2017. 01:26 IST
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