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Top Chinese dating site Baihe’s shares fall after WePhone founder’s suicide sparks questions over data verification

The death of Su Xiangmao, 37, sparked online debate about whether dating sites are accountable for verifying users’ personal data

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 September, 2017, 7:30am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 September, 2017, 2:13pm

Shares of Baihe.com, which owns China’s largest online dating website, plunged by almost half after the site was accused of failing to verify personal information about a woman who allegedly drove her ex-husband, a successful technology entrepreneur, to suicide.

Su Xiangmao, 37, the founder of the Skype-like WePhone app, killed himself last Thursday and left a note accusing his ex-wife of lying when they met through jiayuan.com’s VIP service and blackmailing him when their one-month marriage ended. He said Zhai Xinxin had lied about her age, marital history and other details in her online profile.

Zhai could not be contacted for comment, and the Post was unable to independently verify the allegations against her.

Baihe.com’s shares dropped sharply on Wednesday after Su’s death sparked fierce online debate about whether dating sites should be held accountable for verifying members’ data, with many blaming jiayuan.com for not doing so in Zhai’s case.

The stock traded as low as 3.6 yuan, down 48 per cent, on the National Equities Exchange and Quotations, China’s over-the-counter stock market for start-ups. It later recovered some ground, closing 19 per cent lower at 5.68 yuan.

On Thursday morning, the stock fell further, down 37 per cent to trade at 3.6 yuan.

Su, from Beijing, leaped to his death from an apartment building roof after uploading his suicide note to Google+.

In it, he claims Zhai, whom he had married after dating for two months, drove him to despair by demanding 10 million yuan from him in return for her silence over taxes she said he owed. He said WePhone would suspend its services after his death.

The suicide note has been widely circulated on China’s internet, topping the news search on Weibo on Wednesday.

In response to the tragedy, jiayuan.com issued a statement last weekend on its official Weibo account.

“After verifications, [we found that] the late WePhone founder Su Xiangmao and his ex-wife Zhai Xinxin are both jiayuan.com’s members and have completed real-name authentication respectively, ” the statement said.

“Jiayuan will closely watch the development of events and cooperate with related departments in investigations and evidence collection.”

The company did not say whether Zhai’s information had been found to be genuine or not.

Su Xianglong, the brother of Su, said on his verified Weibo account that Zhai had lied about her marriage history, while jiayuan had failed to verify her the information in her profile.

Jiayuan has more than 170 million registered users and 107 physical stores providing matchmaking services.

In December 2015, Baihe acquired the Nasdaq-listed firm in a deal that valued it at about US$250 million. Jiayuan then delisted its shares from the Nasdaq exchange.

Before the delisting, jiayuan posted a net profit of 25.4 million yuan for 2015, up 26 per cent from the previous year. The increase was driven by a rapid rise in revenues from its VIP matchmaking service.

In the first half of 2017, Baihe registered a 137 per cent surge in revenues to 180 million yuan. Its half-year net profit reached 88 million yuan, swinging from a net profit loss of 60 million yuan in 2016.

China’s online dating market has been growing at a rapid pace. In 2016, the industry’s market size reached 3.4 billion yuan, almost tripling 2014’s 1.2 billion yuan, according to a recent estimate by private research firm Analysys International.

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