Shein: Shein backers offer to sell at 30% discount as IPO prospects dim

Shein investors are trying to sell shares in private market deals that value the online fashion giant at as low as $45 billion, reflecting dwindling appetite for a company struggling with intensifying competition and regulatory scrutiny ahead of a long-awaited US debut.

Shareholders offered stock at valuations ranging from $45 billion to $55 billion in late 2023, people familiar with the matter said. That’s down from the roughly $66 billion Shein achieved during a May round of fundraising. But they struggled to find buyers even at those depressed levels, raising the prospect of a further loss of value, the people said, asking to remain anonymous discussing private transactions.

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The latest offers, which haven’t previously been reported, show how the gap is widening between market appetite and Shein’s target of up to $90 billion in an initial public offering. While private transactions aren’t often equivalent to levels a company can eventually garner on public markets, they’re a useful barometer of investor sentiment.

The lack of interest underscores how the once dominant retailer of cut-rate apparel is struggling to fend off Temu, a direct rival launched about a year ago by Chinese e-commerce giant PDD Holdings Inc. At the same time, major clothing brands from Fast Retailing Co.’s Uniqlo to Hennes & Mauritz AB have accused it of copyright infringement. Shein representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Shein’s shares changed hands at around $50 billion to $60 billion in the second quarter of last year, when it aimed to fetch a valuation of $80 billion to $90 billion in a listing, Bloomberg News reported in November. But liquidity has dried up further since, the people said. In one unusual transaction in late 2023, Shein changed hands at about a $30 billion valuation — though in that case, an indebted seller was forced to unload in a hurry, one of the people said.

The declining valuation casts a cloud over Shein’s blockbuster listing, which is now under review by China’s cyberspace administration. The internet overseer is looking into its data handling and sharing practices, a process that could take months. Meanwhile, lawmakers in the US have urged the Securities and Exchange Commission to halt the IPO until it verifies the company doesn’t use forced labor in its supply chain.

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Shein, founded in Nanjing and now headquartered in Singapore, was the world’s third most valuable startup in 2022, when a funding round valued the company at $100 billion. Its valuation has since dropped along with other startups and technology companies as investors grow wary of riskier assets amid an uncertain economic outlook. The valuation of ByteDance Ltd., parent of short-video service TikTok, fell to below $300 billion in secondary markets around July, down at least 25% from last year, Bloomberg News has reported.

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