SenseTime seeks to break Chinese biometrics giants’ IPO stalemate with $2 billion offering
The company paused its plans for a $750 million public listing in Hong Kong last year, but just months later was reported to be looking to raise at least US$2 billion in its initial public offering (IPO), perhaps as a dual listing, on a valuation of $8.5 billion. All four of China’s facial recognition unicorns are reported to have had on-again off-again IPOs plans.
The move comes at a time of technological turmoil for China, with the country pushing new standards for face biometrics last April, and new draft rules for cybersecurity reviews last month. SCMP reports recent regulatory changes have led to the postponement of other IPOs.
SenseTime was banned from operating in the U.S. by the Trump administration in 2019 and added to the ‘Entity List,’ which prevents firms from buying from U.S. suppliers, on the basis that its technology was allegedly involved in human rights violations targeting the Uyghur minority with biometric ethnicity detection.
Despite this, SenseTime continued to grow steadily in China, even during the first year of the pandemic.
Writing in a stock exchange filing on Friday, the Chinese firm called for a review of these allegations, as their impact could affect “certain business lines” and adversely affect the firm’s financial conditions.
SenseTime counts a number of tech giants as investors, including SoftBank, Temasek, and Alibaba, and is reportedly China’s largest AI company, but reported a net loss of 12.2 billion yuan (US$1.9 billion) in 2020.
SenseTime has been particularly active in the first half of 2021, unveiling a full-stack biometric and AI solution at Auto Shanghai 2021 in April, and appointing Liu Cixin as the director of the firm’s Science Fiction Planet Research Center in June.