Ctrip-backed travel agent Tongcheng-eLong to raise up to US$1.5 b in Hong Kong stock sale

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 10:24am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 10:05pm

Tongcheng-eLong Holdings, the online travel agent cobbled together last December through a merger, is planning to raise between US$1 billion and US$1.5 billion in a Hong Kong initial public offering, according to people familiar with the plan.

The Suzhou-based company, formed through the merger of Tongcheng Network with E-dragon Holdings Limited (eLong), helps budget travellers book accommodation, flights and train tickets, serving as many as 300 million customers in 2016, according to its website.

The fundraising would trump the US$85 million stock offer in 2003 by China’s largest online tour operator, and create another online tour giant, in an industry that is growing and innovating in leaps and bounds through the combination of smartphone-enabled internet technology with the world’s largest population of domestic and overseas travellers.

The gross merchandise volume (GMV) of China’s online travel market expanded by 39.8 per cent in compounded growth between 2013 (US$47 billion) and 2017 (US$181 billion), according to research company iResearch.

The merged company’s transport ticketing GMV reached 80 billion yuan (US$12.31 billion) last year, according to an initial public offering application the company filed to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing on Thursday. The two separate companies had a combined transport ticketing GMV of 50.5 billion yuan in 2016.

The company also generates revenue from offering travel products through Tencent-based platforms and its own mobile apps and its websites. It provides accommodation reservation by receiving commissions from suppliers.

The group’s total revenue was 25.2 billion yuan in 2017 with a profit of 1.94 million yuan.

Tongcheng-eLong will use capital raised from the flotation to develop new products and fund potential acquisitions, according to the filing. It will also use the money to enhance the technology capabilities by building big data, and artificial intelligence development.

The merged company counts several prominent companies among its list of investors. Dalian Wanda Group, the malls-to-cinema operator owned by one of China’s wealthiest tycoons Wang Jianlin, invested in Tongcheng Network’s eighth funding round. held stakes in both Tongcheng and eLong at the time of the merger, while China’s dominant social media network operator Tencent Holdings has a stake in the new, merged entity.

Tencent is also a major investor in Ctrip’s competitor Meituan-Dianping. Meituan is also expected to file an application for a listing in Hong Kong this week, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and CMBI are joint sponsors of Tongcheng-Elong’s Hong Kong IPO, according to its flotation prospectus.