Chinese tech company Qihoo 360 latest to be taken private

(Reuters) - Qihoo 360 Technology Co QIHU.N said it agreed to be acquired by a group of investors in a deal valued at about $9.3 billion, joining a long list of U.S.-listed Chinese technology companies being taken private this year.

Logos of Qihoo 360 are seen at an expo in Beijing, July 21, 2015. REUTERS/China Daily

Executives at several Chinese companies have been betting on higher valuations back home, but the economy that accounts for much of their business has been slowing.

Shares of Qihoo, which listed in the United States in 2011, were up 2.7 percent at $73.78 in premarket trading on Friday, below the offer of $77 for each American Depositary Share.

The offer represents a 16.6 pct premium to the stock’s closing on June 16, the day before the company said it had received a buyout offer from a consortium led by Chief Executive Hongyi Zhou at $77 per ADS.

The company said on Friday entities controlled by Zhou and Chairman Xiangdong Qi agreed to vote all their shares in favor of the deal. Their combined stake represents about 61 percent of the voting rights attached to the outstanding shares.

It was not immediately clear whether Zhou was part of the consortium that is taking Qihoo private.

In deals collectively worth $40 billion, some 33 mainland China companies have unveiled plans this year to be taken private and delist from the United States as of mid-November, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Chinese firms that have been taken private include Shanda Games Ltd and medical R&D services provider WuXi PharmaTech.

Online dating service, dubbed the ‘ of China,’ is in the process of being taken private.

In November, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd BABA.N offered to take Youku Tudou Inc YOKU.N, popularly known as "China's YouTube", private for about $3.7 billion.

The Qihoo deal, which is currently expected to close during the first half of 2016, includes about $1.6 billion of debt.

The consortium taking the company private includes Citic Guoan, Golden Brick Silk Road Capital, Sequoia Capital China, Taikang Life Insurance, Ping An Insurance, Sunshine Insurance, New China Capital, Huatai Ruilian, Huasheng Capital or their affiliated entities.

J.P. Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd is the financial adviser to the company’s special committee. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is U.S. legal counsel to the committee.

Huatai United Securities Co Ltd is the consortium’s financial adviser and Kirkland & Ellis LLP is the U.S. legal counsel.

Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan and Devika Krishna Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila