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Report: Fashion retailer Shein eyes U.S. IPO, the first after China’s crackdown on stock listings

Last year, the company was rumored to be chasing a record-setting $47 billion IPO before Beijing tightened its grip.

Report: Fashion retailer Shein eyes U.S. IPO, the first after China’s crackdown on stock listings
[Photo: Getty Images]

Shein, the massive Chinese fashion e-retailer that gives Amazon a run for its money, is reportedly eyeing a U.S. stock market listing once again, after last year’s plans were scuttled amid rising tensions between the countries.

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According to Reuters, which cited two people familiar with the matter, those plans are being revived despite the regulatory crackdown in China, which included tougher rules for offshore IPOs. In December, the Chinese government said firms of certain industries would need to be granted a waiver in order to seek foreign investment. Overseas investors, meanwhile, would be forbidden from participating in management and their total ownership would be capped at 30%.

The new policies have blunted growth prospects for China’s domestic giants. But if there were any question of what could happen if firms don’t fall in line, last year’s fiasco around Didi Chuxing made clear the damage Beijing could do: In December, the embattled Chinese ride-share app moved to delist from the New York Stock Exchange just six months after its debut, and after dropping nearly 70 points amid a series of business-hobbling government probes that accused the company of jeopardizing national security.

But Shein hopes to bypass the crackdown, as its founder, Chris Xu, is considering changing his citizenship to Singapore, sources told Reuters. Such a change would ease the road to an offshore IPO. Both sources declined to be named as the details are confidential.

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Reached for comment, a Shein spokesperson sent the following statement to Fast Company: “SHEIN has no plans to IPO. Our company CEO, Chris Xu, has not applied for Singaporean citizenship.”

If forthcoming, a Shein IPO could set records. Last year, it was rumored to be chasing a $47 billion initial public offering—the largest in history—before those plans vanished into the U.S.-China chasm. (Shein denied back then that a debut was in the works.)

The company’s rise has been meteoric and dizzying: In 2020, less than a decade after its founding, its sales reached $10 billion and accounted for 28% of all fast-fashion sales in the U.S., as much as H&M and Zara combined. An investigation from Rest of World revealed its success was propelled by smart internal management software that links a sprawling network of 6,000 Chinese clothing manufacturers, allowing the company to react to real-time shopping data with lightning-fast reflexes—queuing production of more sweater vests or curbing distribution of jean jackets—just minutes after customers peruse its pages.

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But a nimble supply chain is just one part of its story: Shein has also faced controversy with designers accusing it of stealing their work, and big brands like Levi Strauss and Dr. Martens suing it for trademark infringement. And in November, a Swiss advocacy group found Shein’s factory workers in the Guangzhou province—mostly migrant laborers—were toiling to extremes, clocking 75-hour weeks with only one day off a month.

Shein, like Amazon, has enjoyed a sales boom during the COVID-19 pandemic: It racked up $15 billion in revenue in 2021, and was valued at $50 billion early that year. According to its website, it ships clothing to 150 countries from global warehouses.

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