Caixin
Oct 19, 2017 02:51 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

Qudian IPO Cashes In on Investor Appetite for Fintech

Shares of online microlender Qudian Inc. jumped 22% in their New York trading debut, valuing the company at nearly $10 billion, as investors clamored for a piece of the biggest U.S. listing to date by a new wave of fast-growing Chinese financial technology (fintech) companies.

The strong performance was partly due to Qudian’s strong ties to Ant Financial, operator of the popular Alipay electronic payments service and one of China’s oldest fintech firms, analysts said. But it also reflects strong investor appetite for the sector, which should bode well for a series of similar offerings set to launch over the next year.

Qudian’s IPO American Depositary Shares (ADSs) had priced at $24, already above their original range of $19 to $22, indicating strong demand for the company. The shares jumped as much as 48% on Wednesday, their first trading day, before ultimately closing up 22% at $29.18.

The offering raised $900 million, though the final total could top $1 billion if the deal’s underwriters exercise an overallotment option, a source with direct knowledge of the situation previously told Caixin. At its current market value, the company is worth more than far older Chinese internet names like Sina Corp. and Sohu.com Inc. It also becomes the most valuable fintech company listed in New York.

“I think Qudian did well in part due to the halo with Alipay and Ant Financial, which surprised me a bit,” said MCM Partners analyst Ryan Roberts. “I thought there might be some push back on the valuation, but I guess not!”

The strong reception follows a similarly strong performance for ZhongAn Online Property & Casualty Insurance Co. Ltd., which became the biggest China fintech offering of all time with its listing in Hong Kong last month. That offering, involving an online-only insurance company backed by internet giants Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd., priced at the top of its range, and is currently up nearly 40% from its offer price.

ZhongAn and Qudian are among a new generation of private fintech companies that use the internet and big data as a major part of their business model for providing financial services like loans and insurance. The field has exploded over the last five years as Beijing has opened the financial services sector to private investment, ending a decades-long monopoly by slower-moving state-run companies.

Another fintech company, Ppdai Group Inc., made its first public filing late last week for a New York IPO to raise up to $350 million.  Other fintech companies said to be actively pursuing offshore listings include Hexindai and Lexin, according to knowledgeable sources.

Those listings could also receive strong demand due to leading positions in their categories and broader investor interest in the fintech space, Roberts said.

“I don't think this necessarily means that other fintech names will be a slam dunk,” he said. “I think that there is definitely interest in the space. But whether or not that translates into 20%-plus pops on IPO day is an open question.”

Contact reporter Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com)

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