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  • Jul 14, 2014
  • Updated: 2:59pm

China's 'Amazon' to delay I.P.O.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2012, 12:00am

Jingdong Mall's on-again, off-again stock market listing is off - again.

The mainland's top online retailer, often dubbed China's Amazon.com, is postponing its planned initial public offering of shares on Nasdaq in the United States, aimed at raising about US$5 billion.

The company had been expected to file its listing form as soon as this month and launch the IPO by September. But after recent discussions with investment bankers, it has decided to delay any listing until next year because of weak market sentiments worldwide, people familiar with the matter say.

Last year, Jingdong shelved its listing plans as markets softened.

Beijing-based Jingdong, which operates 360buy.com targeting China's fast-growing online market, was eyeing Nasdaq, where many internet businesses, including Facebook, are listed.

Volatile markets have damped investor enthusiasm for IPOs around the world, prompting the delay of some big listings including Graff Diamonds, which intended to raise US$1 billion in Hong Kong before pulling the deal earlier this month. Even Facebook, the world's No1 online social network operator, which raised US$16 billion in an IPO last month, has struggled. The listing ranked as the world's sixth-largest ever and the biggest technology IPO in history. But the stock quickly fell and is trading far below the offer price, casting a pall over new listings worldwide. Senior executives of Jingdong were in Hong Kong last month talking to bankers about 'how strong an appetite the market may have for technology companies after the Facebook IPO', one of the people said.

'If Jingdong is keen to launch its IPO in the current market environment, I think it can make the IPO happen, but the size of the IPO may have to be cut half,' said a person who asked not to be named because the talks between banks and Jingdong are private.

The company was not available for comment.

Jingdong has not officially appointed its IPO sponsors, but it is understood that the firm, whose major competitors include Alibaba's Taobao.com and Dangdang.com, has good working ties with several Wall Street banks, the people said.

The IPO plan has been closely monitored by investment bankers from Hong Kong to New York, given its big size. It was set to be the second-biggest web IPO this year after Facebook. Jingdong's shareholders include Russian investor Digital Sky Technologies (DST), which is also an investor in Facebook.

Some senior executives at Jingdong preferred going public this year because they were concerned about even more global market uncertainty next year, another of the people said, adding, however, key investors such as DST suggested the executives should not be in such a hurry.

If Jingdong proceeds with an IPO next year, it may encounter stiff competition from some of its Chinese rivals eager to tap the US market. For example, Alibaba is in the final stage of delisting its Alibaba.com unit in Hong Kong this week. Many investors expect that to pave the way for a big group IPO in the next year or two.

Originally a distributor of consumer electronic goods, Jingdong ventured into online retailing in 2004 and expanded into books, furniture, apparel, cosmetics, food and beverages and infant products.

It has become a market leader by selling branded goods at lower prices than traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, but has yet to turn a profit. Jingdong has an aggressive expansion plan to improve the efficiency of the logistics and delivery of its goods to clients, which would cost big money, for example, to add more warehouses and service outlets. According to its website, it has 20 million registered users and 1,200 suppliers.

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