BEIJING (Jul 9): It was hailed as the biggest and most important Chinese technology debut in years. Instead, Xiaomi Corp. begins life as a public company on the defensive, struggling to justify a lofty valuation while buffeted by a geopolitical storm beyond its control.

When billionaire Chairman Lei Jun strikes the gong on Monday in Hong Kong, he will usher onto public markets a company twice as expensive as Apple Inc. that is pitching itself as a high-growth internet play on par with the likes of Facebook Inc. At about US$50 billion, Xiaomi will become the world’s third-largest publicly-traded maker of mobile devices, a standard-bearer for Chinese corporations seeking to become global players and leaders in technology.

That vision will soon get tested: institutional investors saw bids on the gray market 11% below the initial public offering price. That’s after Xiaomi’s IPO came in at the very bottom of a marketed range. If that level holds during actual trade, it may have a chilling effect on a swathe of tech corporations keen on raising capital this year to fuel their ambitions, from Meituan Dianping to Tencent Music. Longer-term however, Xiaomi’s expanding global footprint may help it grow into its valuation.

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