Tencent and private equity partner Hammer Capital have offered $16 U.S. per share to buy out the other shareholders in Chinese auto information and transaction provider BitAuto (NYSE: BITA), valuing the company at just under $1.2 billion U.S., according to reporting by Reuters.
The offer would represent a 16.4% premium over BitAuto’s current trading price, and is reportedly backed by shareholders that own more than 48.5% of the company, including JD.com. As recently as April, Morgan Stanley was able to acquire 4.1 million shares in BitAuto at a discounted rate of $13.95 U.S.
Tencent owns a 7.81% stake in BitAuto, as well as a 20.6% stake in BitAuto financing subsidiary Yixin Group.
BitAuto primarily operates as a b-to-c mall for new autos. The company’s used autos transaction business — operated through the Taoche.com domain — was transferred to “Yusheng Holdings Ltd.” in June 2018, citing the need to distance itself from the “intense competition” in the Chinese used autos sector as a motivating factor.
Beijing-based BitAuto has seen a significant surge in traffic, usage time, and sales leads since upgrading its app in December. Changes included upgrading the display format of automobile information. The site also shifted from traditional graphics and videos to high-definition AR and VR showrooms — which now cover more than a thousand models. The new app design is intended to appeal to a younger user demographic. In Q3 2018, the company launched three new mini-programs on Tencent‘s WeChat social network. These currently rank 34th among all mini-programs on WeChat, and first among autos.
The company was buffered by turbulence from a weak Chinese autos sector in Q2 2019, with total revenues up just 8.9%, to 2.79 billion RMB ($390 million U.S.) CFO Ming Xu stated that the company expects to revenues to further slip in Q3, with estimates ranging from a 2.8% decrease to a 0.9% increase year-over-year in the coming quarter.
BitAuto’s shares are down about 40% since the start of this year, and it is growing more slowly than some rivals too: stock in Autohome is up 27% this year. Worse, the backdrop is bleak. Auto sales in the world’s largest market have fallen for 14 consecutive months, while the top industry association has warned that the next three years could see low or negative growth. None of that will help reverse the drop in Bitauto’s advertising revenue.