Chinese video streaming company LeTV may lose its listing on the country’s stock market after accumulating significant debt, as major shareholder Jia Yueting pursues his dream of producing electric cars.
In its first 2019 shareholders meeting held on Tuesday in Beijing, Bai Bing, LeTV’s secretary of the board, warned that the company’s public listing is at risk of being suspended if it records negative net assets in its audited 2018 financial results.
The Shenzhen board-listed company reported total unaudited debt of RMB 12 billion (around $1.8 billion) in 2018, of which RMB 3.4 billion is owed to its suppliers. It also warned that it would be forced to delist after a year “if its 2019 annual report fails to meet regulatory demands,” (our translation) according to a notice released Monday.
“We have been negotiating with the controlling shareholder (Jia Yueting) and his related parties about the repayment plans,” (our translation) Chinese media cited Bai as saying. He added that the company “never gives up” and will continue to ask Jia to return the money by cash or other assets, such as the shares in his electric vehicle (EV) startup, Faraday Future.
Previously, US media reported in December that Jia’s 33% stake in Faraday was temporarily frozen by a federal judge. The embattled EV maker was also forced to put its properties in Los Angeles and Las Vegas up for sale, prior to forming an alliance with Chinese gaming firm The9, which pledged $600 million for the mass production of its luxury V9 model.
As of Apr. 4, Jia, the chairman and founder of LeTV’s parent company Leshi Holding, owned around 932 million shares of the video streaming company. His 23% stake has been frozen by Chinese law enforcement bodies due to unpaid debts, the company stated in the notice.
In a bid to raise cash, LeTV sold a controlling stake of smart TV subsidiary Leshi Zhixin, a major revenue source, to Chinese property developer Sunac in late 2018. In 2017, LeTV earned RMB 2.5 billion from selling internet-based TV sets, comprising 42% of the company’s total revenue. However, its revenues sank 90% to only 245 million for the first half of 2018 after the company found itself unable to pay suppliers.
After the spin-off, the TV maker re-launched as Lerong Zhixin in Shanghai in March, with plans to launch a new smart TV product by year end, alongside a sales collaboration with online retailer JD.com, reported Chinese media.