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Companies

After 20 years on Nasdaq, China's Sina wants out

CEO makes push to take company behind Weibo private amid US tensions

Sina Chairman and CEO Charles Chao visits the Nasdaq in April 2014 on the first day of trading for spinoff Weibo.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- Sina, the Nasdaq-listed Chinese company behind the Twitter-like service Weibo, has received a proposal from an entity led by Chairman and CEO Charles Chao to take the business private after 20 years on the U.S. exchange.

The preliminary, nonbinding proposal offers to acquire all outstanding ordinary shares not already owned by the buyer, at $41 apiece, Sina said in a Monday filing.

The company's board has formed a committee to consider the deal. Sina shares have surged about 10% in Monday afternoon trading, nearing the offer price.

Sina went public in 2000, less than two years after being founded, making it one of the first Chinese tech companies to list in the U.S. It owns about 45% of Weibo, which also began trading on Nasdaq in 2014.

New Wave, the company making the privatization offer, already holds over 10% of Sina's ordinary shares on behalf of its senior management and is controlled by Chao, according to Sina filings.

The Beijing-based Sina is the latest Chinese tech company to consider leaving American bourses, or at least reducing exposure, amid rising political tensions between the two countries and the growing risk of delisting.

JD.com in e-commerce and NetEase in gaming both completed a secondary listing in Hong Kong last month -- a hedge against such risks -- after the U.S. Senate passed a bill in May that would kick some Chinese companies off American stock markets.

The legislation, in part sparked by Luckin Coffee's $310 million accounting scandal, would delist companies that have failed to comply with an American watchdog agency's audits for three years in a row. The Chinese government bars the agency in question from accessing relevant documentation of mainland companies.

Sina previously was reported to be planning a secondary listing in Hong Kong after the city's exchange reformed its rules in 2018 to woo mainland tech companies seeking initial public offerings.

Baidu, another Nasdaq-listed Chinese tech heavyweight, also is evaluating options to distance itself from U.S. capital markets as financial decoupling intensifies, Nikkei Asian Review reported last month.

One option involves withdrawing from the U.S. market first before listing again in Hong Kong, a person familiar with Baidu's plans told Nikkei.

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