Caixin
Aug 28, 2021 05:26 PM
TECH

China’s Biggest AI Firm SenseTime Files for Hong Kong IPO

SenseTime CEO Xu Li gets identified by the company's facial recognition system while posing for a photo at the company's showroom in Beijing in June 2018. Photo: Bloomberg
SenseTime CEO Xu Li gets identified by the company's facial recognition system while posing for a photo at the company's showroom in Beijing in June 2018. Photo: Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — SenseTime Group Inc. filed plans for an IPO that would list China’s largest artificial intelligence (AI) company in Hong Kong.

China International Capital Corp., Haitong Securities Co. Ltd. and HSBC Holdings Plc are joint sponsors on the proposed offering, the company said in documents filed with the exchange on Friday. The IPO could raise at least $2 billion, depending on the valuation the company is seeking, people familiar with the matter have said.

The SoftBank Group Corp.-backed company, which makes AI technology for interpreting images, has thrived during the Covid-19 pandemic. The need to enforce lockdown measures increased demand for its facial-recognition software in China. SenseTime’s cameras have been used by the government to tell whether people are wearing masks, to read their temperatures and to determine their identities when their faces are covered.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is expected, in the long run, to accelerate the digital transformation of enterprises and city management, indicating more opportunities for the AI industry,” SenseTime wrote in the filing.

Still, the company, which isn’t using U.S. banks in the IPO, ran afoul of former President Donald Trump’s administration and was blacklisted in 2019. SenseTime was put on the Commerce Department’s “Entity List,” prohibiting U.S. companies from providing it with crucial supplies like semiconductors.

SenseTime sought to raise money at an $8.5 billion pre-funding valuation last year, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

In the filing Friday, the company said its 2020 revenue rose 14% to 3.45 billion yuan ($533 million), while its operating loss widened to 1.81 billion yuan.

Contact editor Michael Bellart (michaelbellart@caixin.com)

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