Didi shares are taking it on the chin once again in premarket trading Thursday following reports that Chinese regulators are preparing to hammer the ride-hailing giant with a massive fine, or some other "unprecedented" punishment, such as de-listing (though it's unclear how the company would reverse the IPO process: would it return the money it raised to American shareholders?)
Bloomberg reports that discussions between a bevy of regulators led by the Cyberspace Administration of China, the new archnemesis of China's tech firms, are in a preliminary phase. However, it's extremely likely that the sanctions imposed on Didi will be "harsher" than the $2.8 billion fine imposed on Alibaba by Beijing.
Other punishments might involve a "suspension of operations", which could threaten Didi's dominance of the Chinese ride sharing market, a major selling point behind its IPO.
"It’s hard to guess what the penalty will be, but I’m sure it will be substantial," said Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California.
Though Chinese regulators refused to comment, BBG noted that officials from the CAC, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of State Security, the Ministry of Natural Resources, along with tax, transport and antitrust regulators, began an investigation on-site at Didi's offices, something that had been reported beforehand.
For those who haven't been following the drama, Didi shares briefly popped, then dropped, after the IPO. But the real losses came when two days later, Beijing rug-pulled the company by launching an investigation into the firm's handling of 'data privacy' issues, a major national security issue in China. The firm's apps have been barred from China's app stores pending an opaque security review process.
Since then, at least a dozen Chinese firms, including TikTok-owner ByteDance, have abandoned plans to list in the US. Indeed, many pundits on Wall Street now believe it will be a long time before another Chinese firm lists in New York. Who knows? Didi might be the last major Chinese IPO, as Beijing demands that domestic firms list domestically, or in Hong Kong.