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SoftBank-backed KE set to raise US$2.1b in US IPO

[BEIJING] KE Holdings, a Chinese online property platform backed by SoftBank Group and Tencent Holdings, is poised to raise US$2.1 billion as it plans to price its US initial public offering above an indicative range, according to people familiar with the matter.

KE, also known as Beike Zhaofang, is telling prospective investors that it's planning to price the shares at US$20 each, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private. The company had been marketing 106 million American depositary shares at US$17 to US$19 apiece.

The above-range pricing underscores the strong demand for KE's offering, which is set to be the largest float by a Chinese company in the US since iQiyi raised US$2.4 billion in March 2018, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

At US$20 apiece, KE is valued at US$22.5 billion based on the outstanding shares listed in its filings, marking a success for Softbank which invested US$1.3 billion at a US$10 billion valuation. The company was last valued at about US$14 billion in 2019, according to CBInsights data.

Deliberations are ongoing and the pricing hasn't been finalised, the people said. A representative for KE declined to comment.

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Despite worsening tensions between the world's two largest economies and an accounting scandal at a US-listed Chinese startup earlier this year, firms from the Asian nation have received a warm reception from US investors. Chinese electric-vehicle startup Li Auto last month raised US$1.1 billion in a US IPO that was also priced above its range.

Beijing Homelink Real Estate Brokerage, also known as Lianjia, is one of China's biggest real estate firms. It launched Beike, which means shells in Chinese, in 2018 as its online platform for property brokerage. Beike raised about US$800 million from Tencent in a funding round last year. China Renaissance Holdings invested US$60 million in it during its B and B+ rounds and has followed up in ensuing rounds.

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