February 27, 2018 / 11:06 PM / in 3 months

Baidu's video unit iQiyi files for U.S. IPO that may raise over $1.5 bln

(This story corrects Feb 28 story to say Baidu owns a 69.6 percent stake in iQiyi, not 80.5 percent.)

FILE PHOTO: A person holds a phone with Baidu Inc's video streaming service iQiyi in Jinan, Shandong province, China, in this May 25, 2016 photo illustration. Picture taken May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese video streaming service provider iQiyi Inc, a unit of search engine firm Baidu Inc (BIDU.O), filed on Tuesday for an initial public offering that is set to raise more than $1.50 billion amid fierce competition in China’s online entertainment market.

iQiyi plans to list its American Depository Shares on the Nasdaq under the symbol "IQ," it said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. bit.ly/2ouHhzO

While iQiyi’s filing was for an IPO of up to $1.50 billion, the sum a company says it plans to raise in its first IPO filing is usually a temporary placeholder, and the final amount is expected to be higher.

Baidu currently owns 69.6 percent of the Netflix-like video platform and will continue to be its controlling shareholder upon completion of the offering, iQiyi said. iQiyi could be worth $8 billion or more, Reuters Breakingviews said earlier this month.

FILE PHOTO: Baidu's company logo is seen at its headquarters in Beijing December 17, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

The listing will give the firm extra financial muscle as it squares off against rivals in the Chinese market, including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s (BABA.N) service Youku Tudou Inc, which the e-commerce company purchased fully in 2016.

iQiyi, which offers free and subscription video content, raised $1.53 billion in a funding round last year, including $300 million from Baidu.

The entertainment unit is one of few services that Baidu hasn’t opted to fold or sell off as part of a wide-scale restructuring to focus on artificial intelligence and autonomous driving.

The search engine pulled resources from on-demand services site Nuomi last year and sold its food delivery business to Alibaba-backed Ele.me in August.

Beijing-based iQiyi has posted losses since its inception in 2010, and reported a net loss of 3.74 billion yuan ($592 million) for 2017, compared with a 3.07 billion yuan loss a year earlier.

Revenue, however, rose to 17.38 billion yuan from 11.24 billion yuan.

It has over 50 million subscribers and more than 420 million monthly active users on mobile devices. The site has a mix of user-generated and original content, including several successful local web-series as well as licensing deals for foreign content.

Last year the firm became the first Chinese site to ink a licensing deal with Netflix Inc (NFLX.O), which has struggled to enter the Chinese market due to strict censorship standards.

iQiyi said it plans to use half of the net proceeds from the offering to expand and enhance it content offerings.

Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC, Credit Suisse and BofA Merrill Lynch are the lead underwriters to the IPO.

($1 = 6.32 yuan)

Reporting by Cate Cadell in Beijing and Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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