Just days after Didi Global Inc, China’s version of Uber, pulled off a US$4.4 billion initial public offering in New York, the Chinese cyberspace regulator effectively ordered it removed from app stores in its home market, citing security risks. The ruling doesn’t stop the company from operating -– its half-billion or so existing users will still be able to order rides for now. But it adds to the uncertainty surrounding all Chinese internet companies as regulators increasingly assert control over Big Tech.
1. What’s Didi?
It’s China’s biggest ride-hailing company. Didi squeezed Uber out of China five years ago, buying out the American company’s operations after an expensive price war. Its blockbuster IPO on June 30 was the second-biggest in the U.S. by a company based in China, after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, giving Didi a market value of about US$68 billion. Accounting for stock options and restricted stock units, the company’s diluted value exceeds US$71 billion -- well below estimates of up to US$100 billion as recently as a few months ago. The relatively modest showing reflects both investors’ increasing caution over pricey growth stocks, and China’s recent crackdown on its biggest tech players.
2. What is this investigation about?
The specifics are still very unclear. Two days after the IPO, the Cyberspace Administration of China said it’s starting a cybersecurity review of the company to prevent data security risks, safeguard national security and protect the public interest. Two days after that it said Didi had committed serious violations in the collection and usage of personal information and ordered the app pulled. There are no details on what precisely the investigation centers on, when or where the alleged violations occurred or whether there will be more penalties to come.