Chinese AI Company SenseTime Raises 5.5Billion HKD
The startup firm is about to make founder Tang Xiao’ou one of the world’s richest people.
Chinese AI Company SenseTime Raises 5.5Billion HKD
JD Berkowitz 3 January, 2022
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SenseTime Group Inc.'s founder Tang Xiao'ou is set to become one of the world's richest individuals just a few weeks after the United States blacklisted a unit of the company for suspected human rights breaches.

To raise HK$5.55 billion, China's largest AI startup priced its IPO at HK$3.85 per share (49 cents).

China's extensive surveillance apparatus continues to provide huge profits and massive benefits for venture capitalists despite rising tensions with the United States and Beijing's efforts to rein in the country's tech giants.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimates that Tang, 53, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and professor of information engineering at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, is worth $3.4 billion and owns a 21% share in the company.

Tang's net worth was not disclosed by a SenseTime representative.

For a long time, SenseTime was projected to be one of the biggest IPOs ever, but the company has recently come under assault. Due to allegations made by the United States that the company's facial-recognition software is being used to oppress Uyghur Muslims in western China's Xinjiang autonomous region, the listing of the company has been postponed. SenseTime has stated that the claims that led to the sanctions are false.

Following Didi Global Inc.'s New York IPO in July, SenseTime has become the first high-profile Chinese digital unicorn to go public outside of China. The company's stock will begin trading on Hong Kong's stock exchange on December 30th, giving it a market capitalization of almost $16 billion.

Tang has been working on artificial intelligence for facial recognition for a long time now.

He attended the University of Science and Technology of China for his undergraduate studies, then the University of Rochester in New York for his master's degree, and finally the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for his doctorate, where he researched underwater robotics and computer vision.

After a brief stint at Microsoft Research Asia, he and Xu Li, then a research scientist at Lenovo Group Ltd. in China, co-founded Shanghai-based SenseTime in 2014. IDG Capital, SoftBank Group Corp., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., and Silver Lake were all early investors in the company.

According to the company's prospectus, it presently holds an 11 percent market share in Asia's artificial intelligence software market. China's police force uses the technology to assist in investigations, while Tencent Holdings Ltd. creates augmented reality scenes in a mobile game.

Cornerstone investors increased their wagers to $512 million from $450 million just days after the blacklisting. Mixed Ownership Reform Fund and Shanghai Xuhui Capital Investment Co. were two examples of state-backed investment funds. China International Capital Corp., Haitong International Securities Group Ltd., and HSBC Holdings Plc. were among of the event's main sponsors.

The parent firm of the sanctioned entity, according to a legal opinion filed with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, is exempt from the restrictions. According to reports, retail investors became more cautious despite the fact that the offering amount was unchanged.

While revenue rose 14% to $534 million last year, SenseTime nonetheless reported an operating loss of 1.8 billion yuan.

Tech startups, according to Ng, must continue to put money into R&D to stay ahead of the competition. "Stability of income growth is more crucial to SenseTime than short-term profitability."

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