“After a careful study, the company will start delisting on the New York Stock Exchange immediately, and start preparations for listing in Hong Kong,” the Chinese ride-hailing firm wrote Friday on its verified account on Weibo, a popular Twitter-like platform in the country.
In a separate, English-language statement, the company said that its board of directors has authorized the company to file for delisting in New York.
The board will “organize a shareholders meeting to vote on the above matter at an appropriate time in the future, following necessary procedures.”
The announcement comes just five months after Didi launched its blockbuster, $4.4 billion IPO in the United States — a decision that turned into a fiasco for the company. Its share price collapsed as Beijing cracked down on the firm, saying shortly after the offering that it would ban Didi from app stores in China because it broke privacy laws and posed cybersecurity risks.
The company’s stock is now worth about half of its $14 per share IPO price, a loss of nearly $30 billion in market capitalization.
Beijing’s decision to target Didi was widely seen as punishment for its decision to go public overseas, and the company became a poster child of China’s efforts to rein in what the government sees as unruly Big Tech firms. In the weeks after the IPO, Chinese authorities proposed that companies with data on more than one million users seek approval before listing overseas.
There have also been recent signs that Didi would leave New York. Last week, Bloomberg reported, citing anonymous sources, that the Cyberspace Administration of China asked Didi’s top executives to work out a plan to do just that.
News of Didi’s decision to delist sent shockwaves through Chinese social media. By midday Friday, it was one of the top trending topics on Weibo, with posts about the company attracting more than 120 million views.
One lengthy post written by a Weibo user called the delisting a “severe punishment” for Didi, the result of the “iron fist of socialism.” The post — among the most popular on the topic — attacked Didi’s international investors, including Softbank (SFTBF) founder and CEO Masayoshi Son, whose Vision Fund is a major shareholder.
The person wrote that they were “sad” about the “misfortune” faced by Didi’s executives, but angry about their relationship to overseas investors.
“They could stand up straight, but they were prone to crawl under the feet of foreign capital,” the person wrote.
Shares in Softbank dropped 0.7% in Tokyo on Friday. The stock had plunged 5% late last week after Bloomberg reported on Didi’s potential delisting.
The pressure on Chinese firms that trade in the United States isn’t just from Beijing. Washington has also tightened the screws on companies from the world’s second largest economy. On Thursday, the US Securities and Exchange Commission finalized rules that would allow it to delist foreign firms that refuse to open their books to US regulators. China has for years rejected US audits of its firms, citing national security concerns.
The new rules could have widespread consequences for many Chinese companies that trade in the United States, including Alibaba (BABA), JD.com (JD) and Baidu (BIDU). All three of those companies already trade in Hong Kong, too.
Chinese tech firms were shaken by Friday’s news from Didi. E-commerce firm JD.com plunged more than 5%, while Alibaba lost 3%. Baidu was also down 3%. Gaming and online music company NetEase, which also trades in New York, slid 5.4%.
“This is just another black eye for Chinese tech stocks, which continue to face many regulatory challenges both domestically and globally,” said Daniel Ives, managing director and senior equity analyst at Wedbush Securities. “The Street remains very various of Chinese tech stocks, and this Didi situation is another cautionary tale.”
— CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed to this report.