Alibaba-backed Best sees shares pop 14% in $450 million IPO

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An Alibaba-backed Chinese start-up went public on Wednesday, rising nearly 14 percent on its first morning of trading, despite a launching a pared-down $450 million IPO.

Best, a supply chain technology company, was listed under the symbol “BSTI” on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company priced its 45 million share offering at $10 per share on Tuesday, the lower end of the expected range of between $10 per share and $11 per share. But shares were trading around $11.50 a share by midday Wednesday.

Still, the IPO was scaled back from its earlier proposals of a 62.1 million share offering, priced at $13 a share to $15 a share.

Best’s delivery management system, founded in 2007, has been bolstered by delivering parcels in China’s blossoming e-commerce market. E-commerce giant Alibaba owns 23.4 percent of Best’s shares outstanding, according to Best’s prospectus.

Best had $1.3 billion in revenue in 2016, and already has nearly $1.2 billion in revenue in the first six months of this year, the prospectus said. But the company posted a net loss of more than $201 million last year, and has lost more than $92 million in the first six months of 2017.

Founder and CEO of Best, Johnny Chou, said that China’s swelling middle class will likely continue to push Best’s business higher.

“We just started,” Chou said. He added: “I’ve lived in China for some time now. Every day you feel a stronger consumer demand. Ten years ago, I would have said manufacturing and exports is the engine for the economic growth. But now, more and more, I feel consumption …. is really driving economic growth.”

The challenge, he said, is staying ahead of consumers’ more complex expectations, and making sure the logistics can scale accordingly. While Best provides the tracking technologies and works with merchants, franchisees do the “last mile” delivery, he said.

“Competition is going to continue to be fierce, like anywhere else in the world,” Chou said. “But we have a great opportunity, and the market is growing at a tremendous amount of speed.”

The IPO also comes as tensions simmer between the United States and China. President Donald Trump has pressured China to take a stronger stance against North Korea, and has ongoing discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping on improving America’s trade deficit.

“Right now, the economy is so global,” Chou said. “The U.S. and China are the No. 1 and No. 2 economy in the world, right? So I think everybody’s going to be better off — for the consumers, for business — by working together, bilaterally working together, rather than having more disputes. I think people are generally good and want to work with. They just need to work out some issues. I’m very happy and optimistic that things will go well.”

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