“Most valuable” AI unicorn SenseTime gets Hong Kong IPO – sources

By Elles Houweling

SenseTime – a Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) company – has been approved to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. It plans to raise over US$1bn in its initial public offering (IPO), according to Chinese market news.

SenseTime’s core business encompasses deep learning technology used in various industries, including autonomous driving, smart cities, edtech, healthtech and facial recognition. Its technology is also useful in the emerging metaverse, which promises to mix reality and a virtual world.

According to GlobalData’s analysis, SenseTime is currently the most valuable of all the AI unicorns, with a valuation of US$12bn, having received total funding to date of US$2.6bn. Key investors include Tiger Global Management, Softbank China Venture Capital and Qualcomm Ventures.

The Hong Kong-headquartered company filed for its IPO earlier this year. Although it did not disclose the size of the deal, it said at the time that it planned to invest 60% of the amount raised in IPO to improve research and development.

In 2019, SenseTime became one of the first Chinese companies to be placed on the US Entity List, a trade blacklist that restricts it from gaining access to certain technologies originating from the US.

The White House under Donald Trump claimed that the company was “implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance” against the Uyghur population, a mostly Muslim ethnic group in the Xinjiang region.

At the time, a company spokesperson told CNBC that it was “deeply disappointed” by the White House’s decision.

“We abide by all relevant laws and regulations of the jurisdictions in which we operate. We have been actively developing our AI code of ethics to ensure our technologies are used in a responsible way. In the meantime, we remain focused on protecting the interests of our customers, partners, investors and employees,” SenseTime said in a statement.

SenseTime declined to talk to Verdict, citing its IPO hearing process as the reason.