Shares in China's Xiaomi fall on Hong Kong debut

Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi kicked off its trading debut in Hong Kong Monday, a long-awaited IPO overshadowed by the start of a US-China trade war and bearish investor sentiment.

Shares opened at HK$16.60 ($2.12) in Hong Kong, down from their IPO price of HK$17.00.

Investors felt a lack of confidence even before public trading started, selling their shares at a discount on the unofficial "grey market" last week, Bloomberg News reported.

Despite being one of the most anticipated Chinese technology IPOs this year, Xiaomi saw a disappointing valuation of US$54 billion, well below its ambitious US$100 billion target.

Founded in 2010 by entrepreneur Lei Jun, Xiaomi has grown from a start-up in Zhongguancun -- China's "Silicon Valley" -- to become the world's fourth-biggest smartphone vendor at the end of last year, according to International Data Corp.

Lei has described Xiaomi as a "new species" of company with what he describes as a "triathlon" business model combining hardware, internet and e-commerce services. Its products range from smart home gadgets like air purifiers to non-tech items such as pillows and ballpoint pens.

A delay in Xiaomi's plan to launch new so-called Chinese Depository Receipts (CDRs) in Shanghai as well as doubts about the sustainability of its business model were also among reasons for the lower valuation, analysts said.

Chinese authorities devised the CDR programme, under which homegrown companies listed abroad can simultaneously list at home, after watching technology heavyweights Alibaba and Baidu launch on Wall Street.

The plan aims to help development of China's still relatively immature and volatile share markets and allow domestic investors to invest in the country's big tech champions.

Beijing-based Xiaomi is the first firm in Hong Kong to trade with a controversial dual-class structure since listing rules were overhauled to allow weighted voting rights for different sets of shareholders.

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