OKCoin Founder Star Xu May Seek Backdoor IPO by Acquiring a Hong Kong-Listed Company

Star Xu, founder of world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange OKCoin/OKEx, may be seeking a possible backdoor listing by buying a majority stake of a Hong Kong-listed company.

According to shareholding disclosures shown on Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX), Star Xu (Xu Mingxing by his Chinese name), has purchased 60.49% stake in LEAP Holdings Group Ltd, a listed company mainly engaged in construction engineering.

Through his company OKC Holdings Corporation, Xu has bought about 3.2 billion shares of the company at the price of HK$0.152 (around US$0.02) per share, which means this acquisition costs HK$484 million (approximately US$62 million) in total.

The company has halted trading its shares on the stock exchange since Jan. 10 to prevent its stock price from fluctuating as a result of this acquisition. Once the effort is approved by HKEX, Xu will be the largest shareholder of the company.

Industry insiders disclosed that the reverse takeover could provide an approach for OKCoin to become a public company in Hong Kong, instead of going through the complicated procedures of applying for an initial public offering (IPO) and skipping all the regulatory hoops.

Huobi, another leading crypto exchange originated from Mainland China, took a similar path last August. The company acquired 73.73 percent of a listed company named Pantronics Holdings Ltd., costing around $70 million to become its largest shareholder.

While the crypto exchange business is currently not fully compliant on the global scale, in addition, the HKEX has been stepping up efforts to crack down on the backdoor listings to clean up the market and improve the quality of listed companies, in this context, a backdoor listing would be very difficult to operate.

Other major firms in the crypto space, like mining giants Bitmain, Canaan and Ebang, are also looking to host their IPOs in Hong Kong. However, little progress has been seen, with Canaan letting its application lapse, Ebang struggling to refile and Bitmain’s still pending. It seems difficult for these crypto businesses to break into this part of the financial sector, at least at this moment.

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