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The Cyberspace Administration of China has proposed additional cybersecurity reviews for Chinese tech companies seeking offshore IPOs. Photo: Shutterstock

Jianzhi Education tests regulatory waters with first US IPO bid by Chinese online firm after Didi crackdown

  • Online education firm Jianzhi is the first Chinese firm to file for an offshore listing since Beijing slapped new rules after the Didi Chuxing debacle
  • Proposed cybersecurity review by Beijing is listed as a ‘risk factor’ in Jianzhi’s US exchange filing

Jianzhi Education Technology Group has become the first Chinese company to apply for a US flotation since Beijing proposed new rules to tighten scrutiny on offshore listings after the Didi Chuxing debacle. This is the company’s fifth attempt at an offshore stock offering, after four previous tries in Hong Kong failed.

The Beijing-based provider of online vocational education has proposed to raise up to US$50 million through the sale of American depositary shares, according to its filing to the US securities regulator. The firm did not specify which exchange it seeks to list its shares.

Didi Chuxing’s US$4.4 billion IPO on the New York Stock Exchange on June 30 triggered a wave of reviews and clampdown on its China’s operations by the Cyberspace Administration of China, after the ride-hailing operator ignored data security concerns expressed by the CAC. Last Saturday, the regulator proposed a set of draft rules seeking to subject Chinese tech companies to additional cybersecurity reviews to qualify for an offshore IPO.

Following the latest regulatory development in China, Jianzhi Education has included cybersecurity reviews as part of its “risk factors” in the US filing.

Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Global listed on the New York Stock Exchange on June 30, 2021. Photo: Reuters
“We offer our mobile and desktop applications in China, and we could be subject to cybersecurity review in the future. During such review, we may be required to suspend new user registration in China and experience other disruptions to our operations,” it said.

Jianzhi also added that companies like them “face uncertainties as to whether such clearance can be timely obtained, or at all”.

The CAC’s proposed draft rules mandate tech platforms possessing the personal data of at least 1 million users to a review.

According to Jianzhi’s filing, it has provided online learning platform subscription services to about 2,000 universities and colleges as of March. While it had 274 paying subscribers at of end of 2020, it is unclear how many individuals’ personal data it possesses.

Despite the latest regulatory uncertainty, a US listing might be among the few options the 10-year company has to raise funds. The group previously made four attempts to list in Hong Kong between 2018 and 2020, with the latest application having “lapsed” last September, according to Hong Kong stock exchange data. It was not immediately clear why the company failed to list in the city.

Jianzhi’s proposed stock sale comes after a slew of Chinese companies postponed their US IPO-related activities following the Didi Chuxing debacle, fearing it could potentially impact their valuations. E-commerce platform Meicai, medical data solutions provider LinkDoc Technology and fitness app Keep are among the companies that have shelved their IPO plans.

For the three months ended March this year, Jianzhi Education recorded a net profit of 12.3 million yuan (US$1.9 million), a 30-fold increase from 400,000 yuan from a year ago. It plans to use the IPO proceeds to develop new education content, technology development, sales and marketing, according to its filing.

AMTD and Loop Capital Markets are underwriters for the deal.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: education provider tests regulatory waters with bid for listing in the U.S.