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Chinese AI firm SenseTime delays IPO as US imposes investment ban


Chinese artificial intelligence firm SenseTime Group Inc. is trying to keep its initial public offering alive, according to a person familiar with the matter, as the Biden administration adds the company to a blacklist that will ban U.S. investors from buying its actions.

Pricing for the SenseTimes share offering in Hong Kong did not go as planned on Friday, thwarting plans for the company to go public within a week on December 17. Companies that go public in the city typically price their IPOs a week before stock. start trading, and the investors who placed orders don’t transfer the money until the price is fixed.

Later on Friday, the US Treasury Department officially placed SenseTime on a list of companies supporting the Chinese military, citing the role of its facial recognition technology in helping China suppress predominantly Muslim Uyghurs. The blacklist prohibits Americans from investing in the company.

Hong Kong and Shanghai-based SenseTime launched its IPO on Tuesday and was set to raise up to $ 767 million in what was already a tight supply from the previous target of $ 2 billion. company dollars, the Wall Street Journal reported. SenseTime had also obtained so-called core investors who agreed to buy 60% of the shares offered. These investors included large Chinese state-owned companies and investment funds.

The latest setback to the deal came after reports emerged last week that the Treasury Department planned to blacklist SenseTime for investments. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange sent a formal investigation to SenseTime on Thursday, according to people familiar with the matter, who added that the company was working to answer questions from the exchanges.

We believe that this decision and the corresponding accusation are without merit and reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of our business, SenseTime said, adding that geopolitical factors should not influence technological development. The statement, posted on the company’s official WeChat account on Saturday morning Hong Kong time, did not mention the planned listing.

Seven-year-old SenseTime is one of the world’s largest and most valuable facial recognition and computer vision startups. He earns money by selling software used by governments and businesses for applications such as smart cities, surveillance and autonomous driving.

In October 2019, a SenseTime subsidiary in Beijing was among 28 Chinese entities that were added to a U.S. export blacklist for their involvement in the Xinjiang region in northwest China, where Chinese authorities detained Muslim minorities. The U.S. move, which SenseTime flagged as a major risk in its listing prospectus, could restrict the company’s ability to purchase certain technologies, software and goods, he said. The designation of the units on the Commerce Department’s entity list also made SenseTimes’ IPO a tough sell to international investors, who were wary of reputational and geopolitical risks, the Journal previously reported.

Write to Jing Yang at [email protected]

Corrections & Amplifications SenseTime launched its IPO on Tuesday. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated it was Monday. (Corrected December 10)

Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the print edition of December 11, 2021 under the title “AI Firms IPO Is in Jeopardy”.




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