Courier firm Best Logistics seeks U.S. IPO

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Courier firm Best Logistics (百世物流 in Chinese) is gearing up for an initial public offering (IPO) that could be worth US 1 billion in the U.S. this year, local media is reporting.

If successful, it would be the largest IPO by a Chinese company in the U.S. market this year.

The Chinese courier service has seen its valuation top US$ 3 billion after seven financing rounds (in Chinese) last year. It raised a whooping US$7.6 billion fund from investors including internet giant Alibaba and VC firm SBCVC last September alone.

Best Logistics has been inextricably linked to Alibaba since it was founded a decade ago by former Google China Co-President Johnny Chou.

Alibaba, together with contract electronics manufacturer Foxconn, had funded the courier firm in its angel round, before it shelled out additional billions of dollars in the firm’s later rounds.

Prior to the courier firm’s US$ 7.6 billion strategic investment last September, Alibaba had become the firm’s largest shareholder by holding a 27.43% stake in the firm. In addition, Best Logistics is a logistics partner for Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall marketplace.

As competition has been intensifying in the sector, major Chinese logistics firms including S.F. Express, ZTO Express, STO Express and Shanghai YTO Express have all managed to go public since 2016, aspiring to raise money for their war chests to gain strength and take on their rivals.

Of these firms, ZTO Express also chose to float is shares in the U.S., eventually raising roughly US$1.4 billion.

ZTO Express garnered RMB 2.17 billion in adjusted net profit for 2016, up 76.8% year on year, according to its unaudited financial statements released in late February (in Chinese). They are trailing the top performer S.F. Express, which forecast an RMB 4.18 billion net profit. ZTO Express handled 4.5 billion packages in 2016, representing 14.4% of all express packages delivered in the country (in Chinese).

While Best Logistics has not published its results so far, it said earlier in its 2016 financing remit that it handed 735 million packages in 2014, yet has not made updates since then. In addition, the firm also expected its 2015 revenue to rise 86.12% year on year to RMB5.9 billion.

Plagued by similar business operations and mounting labor and infrastructure costs, express delivery firms faced with an even fiercer rivalry will see their profit margins further squeezed in the near future, said an industry observer.