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Chinese offshore IPOs grow more reliant on shaky legal structure

Boom in tech listings built on companies that lack ownership of their operations

Chinese electric car producer Nio, which listed in New York in September, uses a “VIE” to operate in China.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- Chinese companies listing their shares on offshore exchanges are increasingly relying on a precarious legal structure that lawyers previously believed had been rendered obsolete. 

The prospectus filed last week by Tencent Music Entertainment, China's largest music streaming service operator, for a billion-plus initial public offering in New York shows how what are known as "variable interest entities" are more alive than ever.

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