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This picture shows signage of cross-border fast fashion e-commerce company Shein at a garment factory in Guangzhou, in China’s southern Guangdong province, on July 18, 2022. Photo: AFP

China’s fast-fashion juggernaut Shein is seeing private bids US$30 billion below April valuation

  • Investors are evaluating bids for Shein stakes at a 30 per cent discount from US$100 billion valuation in April, sources told Bloomberg
  • Slower sales growth for the e-commerce start-up and criticism over its environmental, social and governance record could impact IPO timeline

Investors looking to sell stakes in Shein are evaluating bids at discounts of about 30 per cent to its US$100 billion valuation in April, according to people familiar with the matter, amid concern about the Chinese fast-fashion giant’s slowing growth.

While some current shareholders in the private company are considering cashing out ahead of a future initial public offering, the valuation spread between buyers and sellers remains a hurdle to any trade, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.

Slower sales growth and criticism over Shein’s environmental, social and governance record could have an impact on the IPO timeline and valuation, the people said. These factors, along with the recent market turmoil in technology companies, have influenced some investors’ thinking about whether to sell at least part of their stakes privately, they said.

A representative for Shein didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

ByteDance’s private valuation down to US$300 billion amid IPO speculation

Shein, whose breakneck growth helped it quickly become the third-most valuable start-up in the world, has seen annual sales growth slowing to around 60 per cent in 2021 from a 250 per cent jump the year before, people familiar with the business have said. The company had sales of at least US$16 billion in 2021, up from US$10 billion in 2020 when Covid-19 lockdowns fuelled a wave of e-commerce demand. Pressure is mounting on the firm to live up to its US$100 billion valuation from a round in April. Current investors include Tiger Global Management, IDG Capital and Sequoia Capital China.

As part of its latest fundraising round earlier this year, Shein told existing investors that it hopes to have an IPO in the US as soon as 2024, people familiar with the matter have said.

The company’s successful fast-fashion business has sparked allegations of environmental damage, worker exploitation and copyright theft. A company spokesperson told Bloomberg News earlier this month that its business model minimises waste and enables it to be more sustainable.

Shein’s valuation drop would follow a trend of worsening investor sentiment on technology assets globally as well as a Chinese government crackdown on the sector’s home-grown champions. ByteDance Ltd has in recent weeks traded at valuations well below US$300 billion, down at least 25 per cent from last year after investors cashed out of the social media giant with its IPO now on ice, Bloomberg News has reported.