BY Richard Summerfield
Chinese internet company Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd has announced that it has agreed a $9.3bn all cash deal to be taken private by a group of investors led by the firm’s chairman Hongyi Zhou. The deal for the company, which is expected to close in H1 2016, includes around $1.6bn worth of debt. The investor’s offer for the company has already won the approval of Qihoo’s board of directors; however the transaction is still subject to the customary closing conditions.
The company will become the latest in a number of US listed Chinese tech firms to have been taken private, which has become a feature of 2015. Indeed, as of mid November 2015 around 33 mainland Chinese companies listed on US exchanges had announced more than $40bn worth of privatisation and de-listing deals. Chinese firms including Shanda Games Ltd and medical R&D services provider WuXi PharmaTech have been among those de-listing in the US. For Chinese executives and investors it is considerably easier to target US listed companies as they tend to be cheaper than Chinese traded businesses.
The deal was first mooted in June 2015 by Mr Zhou and will see an investor group including Citic Guoan Group, Golden Brick Silk Road Capital, Sequoia Capital China, Taikang Life Insurance, the Ping An Insurance Group, Sunshine Insurance, New China Capital, Huatai Ruilian, and Huasheng Capital take control of the company.
Under the terms of the offer each class A and class B share in China will be exchanged for $1.33 in cash, and each American depositary share will be exchanged for $77. The price offered for the company represents a 16.6 percent premium on the closing price of Qihoo’s American depositary shares and a 32.7 percent premium to the average closing price of the company’s depository shares in the 30 days before the proposal.
The consortium has announced that it intends to finance the deal using contributions from the investors, as well as a committed term loan of up to $3bn, as well as a bridge loan of $400m. For the investor group to have raised the cash that it has, the Chinese economy is a particularly impressive feat. Stock market volatility has been considerable in 2015.
However Qihoo’s brand in China is strong, and for the investor group the company’s is an extremely attractive proposition. Over the course of the last eight quarters the company has met or exceeded each of its revenue and earnings estimates. Equally Qihoo’s stock has climbed 27.5 percent throughout 2015.