Chinese AI Giant SenseTime, Accused Of Using Its Tech To Repress Uyghurs, Relaunches Hong Kong IPO To Raise $767 Million

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Dec 20, 2021 05:03 PM +05:30 IST
Chinese AI Giant SenseTime, Accused Of Using Its Tech To Repress Uyghurs, Relaunches Hong Kong IPO To Raise $767 MillionSenseTime Relaunches Hong Kong IPO
Snapshot
  • Amid accusation by the US of creating face recognition software to ascertain people's ethnicity, with a particular focus on identifying ethnic Uyghurs, SenseTime intends to sell 1.5 billion shares in its IPO beginning 30 December.

SenseTime Group, a Chinese artificial intelligence firm—which has been accused by the United States of creating face recognition software to ascertain people's ethnicity, with a particular focus on identifying ethnic Uyghurs—has renewed its $767 million Hong Kong share offer.

The news comes after the US Treasury Department put a prohibition on American investment in SenseTime, due to concerns that the technology developed by the Chinese company was being used to repress Uyghurs.

SenseTime intends to sell 1.5 billion shares in its initial public offering and the company's shares will begin trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on 30 December.

According to regulatory filings, the offer price will not be more than HK$3.99 per offer share. On 23 December, SenseTime’s final price will be revealed.

Last week, the planned offering was postponed after the American Treasury Department added SenseTime to the blacklist. However, SenseTime said recently, reiterating its denial of the US government's allegations: "Our group's products and services are intended for civilian and commercial uses and not for any military application."

Although America's investment prohibition has no impact on the company's operations, the lack of US investors could limit its capacity to acquire capital, according to the company.

SenseTime’s listing comes amid escalating tensions between the US and China. For example, the US Congress recently passed legislation requiring businesses to verify that commodities imported from China's Xinjiang region were not made using forced labour. Additionally, Washington has slapped more limitations on DJI, a Chinese drone manufacturer, as well as other Chinese companies.

In early December, the US announced that it will not send diplomats to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics, citing worries over China's human rights record. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, also joined the diplomatic boycott.

Meanwhile, as Chinese authorities intensified the crackdown on various industries, including digital giants that control the data of hundreds of millions of people, IPOs by Chinese companies have dried up. But in November, China's largest AI firm, SenseTime said it hasn't been the subject of any regulatory investigations or received any cybersecurity queries.

As reported, the SoftBank Group Corp. backed company said in November: “We had not been involved in any investigations on cybersecurity review by the relevant regulatory authorities or had received any inquiry, notice, warning or sanctions in such respect.”

It was also reported that the company has thrived during the pandemic as the need to implement lockdown measures raised the demand for its facial-recognition software.

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