Chinese online property listing platform Beike Zhaofang has secured $800 million in funding from investors led by Internet giant Tencent, according to Chinese media reports.
The ultimate target funding amount for Beike, which was launched by Chinese brokerage giant Lianjia in April has not yet been announced, with the company continuing to negotiate with investors.
The fund-raising exercise by the offshoot of Chinese real estate brokerage Lianjia also saw a reshuffling of the shareholding for Beike’s parent firm which included the exit of 22 investors, in a move which analysts pegged as part of a run-up to a Beike IPO.
Aiming to Raise RMB 12B in 2019
Beike, also known as Ke.com, runs an open listing platform that enables users to search and locate properties, as well as offering financial services to buyers and tenants. Further details on the series D funding for Beike have yet to be released, however, according to a Beike employee cited by Chinese business news site Caixin, the company set a plan earlier this year to sell 10 percent of its equity for RMB 12 billion ($1.79 billion) before the end of 2019 to support its business expansion.
Based on a RMB 120 billion valuation, Tencent may hold as much as 4.47 percent of Beike after the latest investment.
Chinese business information platform Huxiu reported that Beike would use the new funding on technology research and development for the business-to-business market, product innovation and recruitment as well as to drive the user experience and increase industrial efficiency. Beike also told Huxiu that Tencent will provide it with more quality access to the internet giant’s extensive user base.
WeChat Integration Boosts Beike Fortunes
In late March, Tencent integrated Beike’s housing services into its ubiquitous social media app WeChat, giving the property portal direct access to WeChat’s one billion monthly active users and fueling speculation that the internet service giant was betting on Beike’s to expand its footprint in China’s real estate market with a tech twist.
As Beike marching on, armed with fresh funding, its parent Lianjia underwent a major shareholding reshuffle, data from business search platform Tianyancha showed, according to the Caixin report.
As of Monday, the number of shareholders in Lianjia had been reduced from 37 to 15, with top five mainland developers China Vanke and Suanc China Holdings among those no longer on the shareholder list, according to the company data provider.
After the changes, Lianjia’s registered capital was reduced to RMB 13.6 million from RMB 20.5 million. Its chairman Zuo Hui holds a 58.9 percent stake in the company, up from the previous 38.9 percent.
Overseas Listing Could Be in the Cards
Chinese media cited industry analysts as saying that the Lianjia stakes formerly held by Vanke, Sunac and other investors have been transferred to Beike and the move was most likely part of the parent agency’s efforts to prepare Beike for an overseas stock listing in lieu of listing the brokerage directly.
In November, Beike’s South China region Chief Operating Officer Zhang Haiming said publicly that instead of seeking a listing itself, Lianjia would make Beike the main listing vehicle. Caixin reported that it was previously told by several Lianjia investors that Beike is likely to set up a variable-interest entity structure for a listing on a foreign exchange.
Launched in April 2018, Beike, also known as Ke.com, offers new and second-hand homes for sale, as well as rental apartments in more than 500 cities across China. To separate itself from the Internet 1.0 heritage of online property listings, Beike’s services are enhanced by high-tech touches such as virtual reality site visits.
With the Beike spinoff on the way, Lianjia is now said to be focusing on its offline brokerage model, providing sales and marketing of new and secondary-market homes, leasing and other advisory work through its network of more than 8,000 branches across the mainland. It is also listed on Beike as a brokerage brand just like other agencies.