SenseTime delays IPO after being blacklisted by another US blacklist
The Chinese artificial intelligence startup announced Monday that it will delay its initial public offering in Hong Kong, where it had planned to raise up to $767 million. . It is set to start trading as soon as this week.
On Friday, the US Treasury Department added the company to a list of “Chinese military-industrial complex companies”, in which US President Joe Biden has banned Americans from investing.
The US Treasury Department says SenseTime has been sanctioned for its role in technology in enabling Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities to abuse human rights in Xinjiang – allegations that SenseTime has denied. cancel.
Investors in Hong Kong who applied to participate in the IPO will receive a refund.
SenseTime says that it remains “committed to completing the global offering and listing soon.” It noted Monday that it will issue an updated prospectus to investors, with a new tentative timetable.
China’s foreign ministry said the new US sanctions against SenseTime were “based on lies and misinformation”.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters: “We urge the US to immediately withdraw its wrong decision and stop its words and deeds that interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermining China’s interests”. “If the US continues to act arbitrarily, China will definitely take strong measures to fight back.”
SenseTime, founded in 2014 in Hong Kong, generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year by implementing technology for everything from smart city systems to driverless vehicles.
But the company is best known for its facial recognition software.
At the time, the US government also cited concerns about the Xinjiang region, western China, and the link that facial recognition software companies like SenseTime have with the region.
While the use of such technology in policing and homeland security is common across China, it is particularly prevalent in Xinjiang, where up to 2 million people from Uyghur and Muslim minorities are located. Other religious beliefs were allegedly sent to internment camps, according to the US State Department. .
Beijing insists that the camps are vocational training centers that help reform citizens. But Uyghur exiles have described the crackdown as “cultural genocide”, with former detainees saying they have been indoctrinated and abused.
In announcing the new restrictions on Friday, the US Treasury Department again raised concerns about possible human rights abuses in the region. The government says SenseTime’s Shenzhen subsidiary has “developed facial recognition programs that can identify a target’s ethnicity, with a particular focus on identifying Uighur ethnicity.”
SenseTime denied the allegations on Saturday, saying “we strongly oppose the designation and allegation associated with it.”
“The allegations are baseless and reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of our company,” it added. “We regret being caught up in the midst of geopolitical disputes.”
The company also pledged to “take appropriate action to protect the interests of the company and our stakeholders,” without further explanation. It declined to comment at the time when asked for details.
SenseTime added in its weekend statement that it operates “as a software company committed to promoting the sustainable, responsible and ethical use of AI”, having “complied with applicable laws and regulations. .. in the jurisdictions where we do business.”
The company says it has established an “AI Ethical Council, consisting of both internal and external experts, [which] ensure that our business strictly adheres to recognized principles and ethical standards. “
Last week, SenseTime planned to value the stock at HK$3.85 to HK$3.99, or about 50 cents each, according to a stock exchange filing. That would put its valuation at around $17 billion at the top end of the range.
Prior to the postponement, the company would begin trading in Hong Kong on December 17.
– CNN Beijing office, Brian Fung and Ben Westcott contributed to this report.