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Transsion makes three of every 10 smartphones sold in Africa. Photo: Felix Wong

Shenzhen Transsion applies to raise capital on Shanghai’s technology board after taking Africa’s phone market by storm

  • Transsion, selling through its brands Tecno, Infinix and Itel, had 58.7 per cent of Africa’s mobile phone market in 2018, according to IDC data
  • Another 11 mainland China companies have applied to list on the new board
Shenzhen Transsion Holdings, which makes three of every 10 smartphones sold in Africa, has thrown its hat into the ring to raise capital on Shanghai’s tech board via an initial public offering (IPO), becoming one of the first among China’s home-grown technology champions to kick off President Xi Jinping’s fundraising project.
The company completed a three-month counselling period from December 2018 until March, during which an investment bank provided guidance and advice on the IPO applicant’s finances, management and corporate governance, according to Citic Securities, the sponsor of Transsion’s fundraising. The announcement did not disclose the amount of capital Transsion would raise.
The plan marks the first in an IPO beeline for Shanghai’s tech board, ordered to be established last November by Xi to provide an alternative venue to New York and Hong Kong for Chinese start-ups to raise capital.

Another 11 mainland China companies said they have applied to list on the new board. The Shanghai Stock Exchange on Monday unveiled an online platform tracking the review process for the new board. By the evening, no application has been formally accepted by the bourse.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) two weeks ago scrapped a valuation limit on new listings, removing the final barrier that had deterred tech companies from raising capital locally.

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Transsion’s plan also sheds light on a little-known company – founded in 2006 by Zhu Zhaojiang – which has made it a strategy to sell entry-level phones in developing economies to undercut pricier smartphones by Apple, Samsung or such Chinese manufacturers as Huawei Technologies and Xiaomi. Transsion’s Spark 2 model has a full display, a face-ID unlocking system, and sells for as little as 40,500 naira (US$112) on Africa’s online commerce platform Jumia.

“Transsion is in urgent need of money” to finance its expansion and growth, said Frank Xu, an analyst at Q Fund, a Hong Kong-based hedge fund. “The company is facing more competition as it moves up the value chain to produce smartphones, and they need money to improve their infrastructure and services to attract more customers.”

The company sells its phones under three brands: Tecno, Infinix and Itel, with 58.7 per cent share of the market for so-called feature phones without gesture commands, according to IDC data. Among smartphones, Transsion’s market share was 34.3 per cent, beating Samsung’s 22.6 per cent and Huawei’s 9.9 per cent. The company shipped 130 million phones last year, Transsion said, without disclosing its revenue or profit figures.

China’s state media took notice of Transsion’s outsize market share, featuring the phone maker in a 2017 show called Great Power Diplomacy to promote successful Chinese businesses on the continent. Transsion owns and runs a production facility in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

Before undergoing its IPO counselling, Transsion had considered a plan to go public through a reverse takeover of Shimge Pump Industry Group on the Shenzhen Exchange, according to a March 2018 statement.

Trading in Shimge’s stock was halted on Friday, without offering a reason. The stock’s price jumped 4.8 per cent on March 11, the biggest one-day percentage jump since October.

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With more than 10,000 employees worldwide, Transsion has a global sales network covering more than 50 countries and regions in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and South Asia, including Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Egypt, the UAE (Dubai), India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and others, its website said.

Given high mobile phone penetration rates in global emerging markets, the firm is also putting a lot of efforts into developing mobile internet applications, such as Boomplay Music, a music streaming platform for the African market with over 40 million users as of March 2019.


This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Transsion readies for Shanghai IPO