Fashion company Shein has confidentially filed to go public in the United States, according to two sources familiar with the matter, in what is likely to be one of the most valuable China-founded companies to list in New York.
Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley have been hired as lead underwriters on the initial public offering (IPO), and Singapore-based Shein could launch its new share sale some time in 2024, the sources said.
Shein has not determined the size of the deal or the valuation at IPO, the sources said. Bloomberg reported earlier this month it targeted up to $90-billion in the float.
Shein and the banks declined to comment.
The company founded in mainland China in 2012 was valued at more than $60-billion in a May fundraising, down by a third from a funding round last year.
The most valuable China-founded enterprise to go public in the United States so far is e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, which debuted in 2014 at a valuation of $231-billion.
The fast-fashion giant’s move to go public in the U.S. comes as the market for initial public offerings is struggling to rebound after a string of lacklustre stock market debuts.
In recent months there were four major IPOs, and three of them disappointed investors.
Shares of German sandal-maker Birkenstock, grocery delivery app Instacart and chip designer Arm Holdings dropped below their IPO prices in the days that followed debuts, though Arm’s shares are now trading above that price.
“It doesn’t strike me as the most opportune time for Shein to come public, but if they need capital the markets are open … and investor sentiment has been more positive than it was a few weeks ago,” said Jason Benowitz, senior portfolio manager at CI Roosevelt.
“When investors can review the financials, I would expect to see pretty strong growth historically … the key question will be if they can kind of maintain the pace or to continue to gain market share going forward,” he said.
U.S. IPOs have raised about $23.64-billion so far this year, compared with $21.3-billion during the same period last year. In 2021, the comparable number was $300-billion when the IPO market was close to its peak.
Shein had started low-profile roadshows for the float in the U.S., said one of the sources, who declined to be identified due to confidentiality restraints.
It is not immediately clear if the company has filed with China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) for the U.S. IPO. Chinese companies need to receive clearance from the regulator before going ahead with their offshore offerings.
CSRC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“As it is a significant and highly disruptive player in the retail space, Shein will attract a lot of investor interest,” said GlobalData managing director Neil Saunders.
Reuters in July reported that Shein – which attempted to list in the U.S. in 2020 but shelved that plan – has been working with at least three investment banks about a potential IPO.
In August, Republican attorneys general from 16 U.S. states asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to audit Shein’s supply chain for the alleged use of forced labour ahead of its potential IPO.
Known for its $10 tops and $5 biker shorts, Shein ships the majority of its products directly from China to shoppers by air in individually addressed packages.
The direct shipping strategy helped the firm avoid unsold inventory piling up in warehouses and avoid import tax in the United States, one of its biggest markets, as it allows the e-tailer to take advantage of the “de minimis” provision that exempts cheap products from tariffs.
Some critics say the provision allows companies to evade higher tariffs on Chinese goods.
Fast fashion retailers have been gaining popularity in the United States, with Shein taking away market share from the likes of Gap as shoppers look for fresher styles.
In August, Shein partnered with SPARC Group, a joint venture between Forever 21 owner Authentic Brands and mall operator Simon Property, in an attempt to expand their market reach.
Sumeet Singh, an analyst at Aequitas Research who publishes on SmartKarma, said big companies like Shein were tapping capital markets due to peaking interest rates and ahead of possible changes in U.S. regulations for small retailers.
“It’s probably as good as it gets for them right now,” he said.
Shein’s confidential U.S. IPO filing was first reported by China’s Shanghai Securities Journal last week. The Wall Street Journal earlier on Monday confirmed the report citing sources.