Chinese mobile-phone and device maker Transsion will list in an IPO on Shanghai’s STAR Market. The company which has a robust Africa sales network could raise up to 3 billion yuan (or $426 million).
STAR is the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s new Nasdaq-style board for tech stocks that also went live in July with some 25 companies going public.
Headquartered in Shenzhen, Transsion is a top-seller of smartphones in Africa under its Tecno, Infinix and Itel brand.
The company has a manufacturing facility in Ethiopia and recently expanded its presence in India.
Transsion plans to spend the bulk of its STAR Market raise on building more phone assembly hubs and on research and development.
The IPO process comes when the company is actually in the black. The firm generated 3.29 billion in revenue in 2018, up from $2.83 billion a year earlier. Net profit for the year slid to $92 million, down from $96 million in 2017, according to the firm’s prospectus.
Transsion sold 124 million phones globally in 2018, per company data. In Africa, Transsion holds 54% of the feature phone market through its brands Tecno, Infinix and Itel, and in smartphone sales is second to Samsung and before Huawei, according to International Data Corporation stats.
Transsion has R&D centers in Nigeria and Kenya and its sales network in Africa includes retail shops in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Egypt. The company also attracted attention for being one of the first known device makers to optimize its camera phones for African complexions.
Another interesting facet to Transsion’s IPO is its potential to create greater influence from China in African tech, in particular if the Shenzhen company moves strongly toward venture investing.
China’s engagement with African startups has been light compared to China’s deal-making on infrastructure and commodities, further boosted in recent years as Beijing pushes its Belt and Road plan.
Transsion’s IPO move is the second recent event, after Chinese owned Opera’s big venture spending in Nigeria, to reflect greater Chinese influence and investment in the continent’s digital scene.
So in coming years, China could be less known for building roads and bridges in Africa and more for selling smartphones and providing VC for African startups.