Alibaba-backed courier YTO Express to list via $2.7b reverse merger

The logo of Alibaba Group is seen inside the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province early November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song

Alibaba-backed YTO Express plans to go public via a 17.5billion yuan ($2.7 billion) merger with a listed clothing maker, becoming the latest courier seeking capital market funds to stay competitive during China’s e-commerce boom.

China’s mostly privately held express delivery firms are under pressure to spend heavily on logistics infrastructure and service upgrades to retain market share as tech firms such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd propel the country’s fast-growing e-commerce market.

“The (express delivery) industry has entered a phase of reorganisation and upgrading,” said Essence Securities analyst Jiang Ming.

“Right now the firms aren’t very different in terms of service standards. So if one wants to make upgrades, differentiate themselves, this will require large investments.”

Clothing maker Dalian Dayang Trands Co Ltd said in an exchange filing on Tuesday it would buy YTO Express through an asset swap and share issue, resulting in a backdoor listing on the Shanghai bourse for the courier.

Dayang Trands said it will transfer its assets to YTO Express‘ shareholders under the deal. As a result of the transaction, which will require regulatory approval, the shareholders will ultimately own Dayang Trands, it said. YTO did not reply to requests for comment on Wednesday.

YTO‘s deal follows that of rival Shentong (STO) Express, which announced a 16.9 billion yuanreverse takeover with a Shenzhen-traded valve maker in December.

Such back-door listings are becoming popular due to the lengthy waiting time involved in China’s initial public offering (IPO) process. STO Express is still waiting for regulatory approval and that decision could indicate whether YTO‘s deal will go ahead, said analyst Jiang.

“STO Express was the first … Now other companies are frightened and are accelerating their stock market listings,” he said.

Rival SF Express in February posted a notice in a Shenzhen newspaper saying it was being advised by CITIC Securities, China Merchants Securities and Huatai United Securities on a potential stock market listing.

Also last month, Thomson Reuters publication IFR reported that ZTO Express was planning an up to $1 billion IPO this year in Hong Kong.

With low barriers to entry, express couriers proliferated rapidly over the past decade to more than 8,000 firms, squeezing profit margins to about 5 percent from 30 percent 10 years ago, according to analysts.

The sector grew around 50 percent each year between 2010 and 2014, data from the State Post Bureau showed.

YTO, which was founded in 2000, inked net profit attributable to shareholders of 717 million yuan in 2015, down from 747 million yuan in the previous year.

Alibaba and Yunfeng Capital, a fund backed by Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma, own a stake in YTOExpress through a strategic investment deal announced in May last year.

Dayang Trands’ announcement on Tuesday came after China’s markets closed. The company has suspended trading in its shares since early January citing potential major asset restructuring.

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Reuters

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In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

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  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.