Apr 20, 2021 07:43 AM

Meituan Seeks $10 Billion to Fight Alibaba in Grocery Arena

Meituan is selling about 187 million shares at HK$265 to HK$274 in a top-up placement, as well as raising $400 million from shareholder Tencent
Meituan is selling about 187 million shares at HK$265 to HK$274 in a top-up placement, as well as raising $400 million from shareholder Tencent

(Bloomberg) — Chinese delivery giant Meituan is seeking about $10 billion from the sale of new stock and convertible bonds as it doubles down on efforts to fight the likes of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. in newer areas such as online groceries.

The nation’s third-largest internet company is selling about 187 million shares at HK$265 to HK$274 ($34 to $35.25) in a top-up placement, as well as raising $400 million from shareholder Tencent Holdings Ltd., according to terms of the deal obtained by Bloomberg News. It’s the largest-ever sale of new shares by a Hong Kong-listed company, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Meituan is also selling about $3 billion in zero-coupon convertible bonds.

The price range for the placement represents a discount of 5.3% to 8.4% to Monday’s closing price of HK$289.20. The convertible bonds are divided into two tranches, with Meituan selling as much as $1.48 billion in six-year notes and as much as $1.5 billion in seven-year paper, the terms show.

The stock and bond sales come as Meituan grapples with the cost of competing against the likes of Alibaba and Pinduoduo Inc. in newer spheres such as community e-commerce and online groceries. The company has warned it will remain in the red for several more quarters despite record revenues as it spends heavily on new initiatives.

“They are going into new areas including group purchases, and those need a lot of capital, and they need a war chest to compete,” said Kerry Goh, chief investment officer at Kamet Capital Partners Pte. “Valuations are still pretty decent compared to a year ago.”

Meituan intends to use the proceeds from the offerings for technology innovations, including the research and development of autonomous delivery vehicles, delivery drones and other cutting-edge technology, and general corporate purposes, the terms showed.

‘Well Received’

Community buying is one of Meituan’s chief expansion areas, where buyers in the same neighborhood enjoy bulk discounts on fresh produce. But the company faces entrenched competition from other internet giants.

“During the announcement of their results, the company mentioned that they need to invest a lot for future development,” said Steven Leung, an executive director at Uob Kay Hian in Hong Kong. “The market remains very cautious, but with an 8% discount to the last closing price, and also with very detailed plans, this will be very well received by the market.”

That said, all three main rating agencies lowered their outlook on Meituan after it reported earnings last month, with S&P Global Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service saying that its large investments in community e-commerce would come at a heavy cost, generate negative free cash flow and dampen earnings.

Fair Range

China’s economic recovery has helped the world’s largest meal-delivery service increase orders, while its hotel and travel businesses have benefited from a rebound in domestic travel as the country reined in the pandemic.

The company has begun using self-driving vehicles for grocery delivery in the Chinese capital since the Covid-19 outbreak last year, with at least 15,000 orders being completed so far, Wang Xing, the company’s chief executive officer, told analysts during a conference call in March. Wang said Meituan is also experimenting with how to deliver food using drones in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

Tencent is delving deeper into Meituan at a time global investors are souring on the Chinese tech sector due to heightened regulatory scrutiny. Meituan has lost $123 billion of its value since a Feb. 17 high, pummeled by fears that Beijing’s crackdown on Jack Ma’s internet empire will expand beyond Alibaba and Ant Group Co. to engulf other sector leaders like Tencent and Meituan.

“Meituan’s placement price range is fair,” said Paul Pong, managing director at Pegasus Fund Managers Ltd. “After this placement, some short-term investors could sell the stock and shares could trade in a range of HK$250-HK$300 for a while. In the medium to longer term, online platform operators like Meituan and Tencent still have solid growth outlook.”

Bank of America Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are joint global coordinators and joint bookrunners for the bond and equity offerings. CLSA Ltd. and UBS Group AG are also joint bookrunners for the top-up placement.

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