Kuaishou, TikTok’s Chinese nemesis, surges 194% on IPO debut

Kuaishou, a Chinese video app that’s largely underappreciated outside China, has just completed a massive initial public offering in Hong Kong. The app is by far the biggest rival for Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese version, and unlike many Western video platforms that make money from ads and subscriptions, Kuaishou’s cash cow is its tipping business.

Kuaishou’s shares opened in Hong Kong on Friday at HK$338 ($43.6) apiece, a 194% jump from its IPO price of HK$115 ($14.8). That catapults its market cap to nearly HK$1.4 trillion ($180 billion). The company pocketed approximately $5.4 billion from the listing with a total of 365,218,600 shares, excluding the overallotment option.

Kuaishou, which is backed by Tencent, now has a replenished coffer to invest in growth and hopefully work towards profitability. In the first nine months of 2020, the app posted an adjusted net loss of 7.2 billion yuan ($1.1 billion), compared to an adjusted profit of 1.8 billion yuan in the same period a year earlier.

Kuaishou’s stock is a huge hit with both institutional financiers and retail investors from China, many of whom are familiar with the app that boasted 481 million monthly users in the 11 months ended November. The app set a record as the most oversubscribed deal in Hong Kong, attracting retail investor demand totaling $164.8 billion, the South China Morning Post reported. Its share reached HK$322.8 on the gray market platform operated by Phillip Securities Group and HK$421 on online broker Futu Securities.

Like Douyin, Kuaishou began as a platform for people to create and share 15-second short videos (following a brief period as a GIF app) and later expanded into live streaming. The transition is natural, as creators who have built a name may seek further interaction with followers, and followers may want to express their loyalty and affection to creators. Live streaming and virtual gifting fill that need.

Kuaishou has three main monetization methods, with live streaming making up the majority of its revenue. Fifty-eight million users on Kuaishou spent on live videos monthly in the 11 months ended November, and on average every paying user brought 47.6 yuan ($7.36) in revenue.

The app also sells ads, with each user driving 71.4 yuan ($11) in marketing revenue for the period. Lastly, Kuaishou allows creators to hawk products. The gross merchandise value — an industry metric used loosely to measure e-commerce transactions — generated directly on Kuaishou reached 332.7 billion yuan ($51.4 billion) in the period.

For comparison, the live streaming feature on Alibaba’s Taobao bazaar generated over 400 billion yuan in GMV for the twelve months ended December.

While Kuaishou enjoys growing revenue from live streaming, regulatory risks loom in the background. The Chinese government has banned users under the age of 18 from purchasing virtual gifts. It has also urged platforms to put a cap on users’ monthly spending on virtual gifts, though regulators haven’t specified or suggested a limit.

Kuaishou is aware of the risk, noting in its prospectus that “any limits on user spending on virtual gifting ultimately imposed may negatively impact our revenues derived from virtual gifting and our results of operations.”

Until regulators take further action to rein in virtual gifting, Kuaishou will likely continue to thrive while it works on diversifying its business.

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