Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba take part in China Unicom's mixed-ownership reform

The Chinese government has given nod to a consortium of 14 private strategic investors to acquire a combined 35.2 percent stake in the parent of China Unicom for about 78 billion yuan ($12 billion).
Written by Cyrus Lee, Contributor

China's second-largest telecom operator announced on Wednesday that a consortium of 14 private investors, including the three largest technology giants, have been confirmed to take part in the pilot reform.

According to a stock filing by the Hong Kong-listed China Unicom, China United Network Communications, the Shanghai-based holding company of China Unicom, will sell a 35.2 percent stake worth 78 billion yuan to the 14 strategic investors.

The 78 billion yuan fundraising comprises of 11 billion yuan from Tencent, 7 billion yuan from Baidu, 4.35 billion yuan from Alibaba, as well as 5 billion yuan from JD.com, according to a Sina news report on Thursday.

Didi Chuxing, the leading Chinese car-hailing app, valued at $50 billion after the latest round of fundraising in April, is also among the 14 strategic investors.

When the transaction is complete, China Unicom's shareholding in the unit will come down to 36.67 percent.

China Unicom announced in April that it was poised to invite private-sector investors to the government-backed company in a test case of the country's reform of state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

The mixed ownership reform is pushed by the Chinese government with an aim to vitalize SOEs through injecting funds from private capital. The three largest telecom operators, China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom, are all stated-backed enterprises and have monopolized market share.

The proceeds raised will help China Unicom push forward in various business developments such as cloud, big data, and artificial intelligence. The operator added that funds injected will also be utilized to enhance its 4G mobile capability and 5G technical trials in the country.

The deal took an twist on Wednesday night when the China United Network had withdrawn three regulatory filings it made to the Shanghai stock exchanges on Wednesday afternoon, citing technical issues.

Rail equipment maker CRRC Corp, despite being named as one of the 14 investors, denied on Thursday that it would participate in the shares purchase of China Unicom's parent company.

But China Unicom's regulatory fillings to the Hong Kong bourse remain unchanged.

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