Entrepreneurship

Chinese Startup Bianlifeng Files Confidentially for U.S. IPO

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(Bloomberg) — Chinese convenience store chain startup Bianlifeng has filed confidentially for a U.S. initial public offering that could raise about $500 million, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Beijing-based company is working with advisers on the share sale, which could take place as soon as this year, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private.

Bianlifeng has named former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. investment banker Deborah Wei as its chief financial officer, said one of the people. Wei left the bank earlier this year where she focused on China’s natural resources sector, Bloomberg News reported in May.

Deliberations are ongoing and details of the IPO including size and timeline could still change, the people said. A representative for Bianlifeng declined to comment.

The startup’s IPO filing comes even as China moves to rein in Chinese listings in offshore markets and vows to step up its regulatory oversight of companies trading overseas. Regulators in Beijing are planning rule changes that would allow them to block a Chinese company from listing overseas even if the unit selling shares is incorporated outside China, Bloomberg News reported this week.

Founded in 2016, Bianlifeng runs cashier-less convenience stores and unmanned shelves, which customers can buy snacks and beverages after scanning QR codes, according to its website. The company operates in more than 20 Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou. It counts Hillhouse Capital and Zebra Global Capital Management among its investors.

Bianlifeng operates in a competitive and cash-burning sector that has attracted flocks of investors and young entrepreneurs seeking to disrupt China’s neighborhood retail industry. The sector has recently been facing setbacks, worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic last year, with dozens of companies shuttering operations.

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