Chinese digital agency pushes on with $400 million U.S. IPO: sources

(Reuters) - KKR-backed digital advertising agency Cue Holdings is pursuing a New York listing, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter, becoming the latest in a number of mainland technology firms to brush off U.S.-China trade tensions.

Cue has appointed Credit Suisse CSGN.S and Morgan Stanley MS.N to raise $300-$400 million as part of its initial public offering (IPO) due early next year, the sources said.

The company aims to have a market capitalization of up to $2 billion, they added.

The people could not be identified because the information has not yet been made public.

Cue is a digital agency that works with Chinese tech companies like ByteDance, Baidu BIDU.O and Tencent 0700.HK to source advertising on their popular Chinese apps like WeChat, Douyin, Jinri Toutiao, and Kuaishou.

The Shanghai-based company was formed in March last year when four digital firms consisting of WIN, AnG, Wina Tech and Qixin were merged into a partnership and the business was backed by KKR KKR.N .

It carried out a private funding round in August which was led by Anchor Equity Partners, the South Korean firm, and Princeville, according to a company statement at the time.

Cue and KKR spokeswomen declined to comment on the company’s possible IPO, as did Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley.

If the company presses ahead with a U.S listing, it will be the latest in a string of Chinese tech and cryptocurrency companies contemplating a New York IPO.

Investment banking sources have told Reuters the companies have not been dissuaded by the U.S.-China trade war and after Washington blacklisted some mainland tech companies like Megvii and Sensetime.

BitMain Technologies has lodged its prospectus confidentially with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to raise up to $500 million in a deal which could go ahead early next year.

Similarly, bitcoin miner Canaan Creative updated its U.S. filings with the SEC this week after it lodged its documents to raise up to $400 million. Canaan has appointed Citigroup C.N and Credit Suisse to work on the deal.

Canaan attempted a Chinese listing three years ago through a reverse merger by buying a Shandong-based electric equipment maker and then again filed for a Hong Kong float last year.

However, both IPO processes were put on hold after regulators expressed doubt about the company’s business model and future growth prospects.

36Kr, a Chinese tech startup, has more than halved the size of its current deal and will now raise just $24 million and the pricing of the deal is due to occur on Friday in New York.

Reporting by Scott Murdoch and Julie Zhu, additional reporting Yingzhi Yang; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise