Chinese fashion e-commerce firm Meili seeks $500 million in U.S. IPO - sources

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese fashion-focused e-commerce platform Meili Inc is seeking $500 million in an initial public offering targeted for the second half of this year, people with direct knowledge told Reuters.

Meili, created through a 2016 merger between online fashion retailer Meilishuo and rival Mogujie, has mandated Morgan Stanley MS.N to lead the listing together with Credit Suisse CSAG.UL and China Renaissance, the people said.

The company, which was valued at around $3 billion at the time of the merger, will go public in the United States, according to two of the people, who declined to be named as the information is confidential.

Meili Inc did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. The three banks declined to comment.

The float will add to a busy pipeline of Chinese tech companies that are seeking to go public this year, including smartphone maker Xiaomi IPO-XMGP.HK and on-demand online services provider Meituan Dianping.

Most of the biggest deals are expected to take place in Hong Kong under new rules in the city designed to attract more tech and biotech IPOs, as competition for new floats heats up between Hong Kong, New York and the Chinese mainland.

But one of the sources said Meili still favors a U.S. listing as the company, which is not yet profitable, believes U.S. investors will be more familiar with its e-commerce business model, as e-commerce giants such as Amazon AMZN.O, Alibaba BABA.N and JD.Com JD.O are all listed there.

Meilishuo, which means “beauty talk” in Chinese, and Mogujie, or “Mushroom Street”, both started out as online marketplaces and social sites targeting female consumers, highlighting and promoting items such as clothes, shoes, skincare products and handbags.

They evolved into shopping sites similar to Alibaba’s Taobao and merged in January 2016 to create a fashion services group including a platform for internet celebrities and models, and its own fashion brand.

Founded in 2009, Meilishuo’s backers include Tencent Holdings Ltd, GGV Capital and Sequoia Capital China.

Mogujie, established two years later by a former Alibaba executive, counts Ping An Ventures, a venture capital arm of Chinese insurer Ping An Insurance Co., Hillhouse Capital and Hopu Investment Management as investors.

Reporting by Kane Wu and Julie Zhu, and Fiona Lau of IFR; Editing by Shri Navaratnam