Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global will start trading on the over-the-counter market (OTC) on Monday, more than two weeks after its shareholders voted to delist the company from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) where it raised US$4.4 billion last year in a public listing that angered Beijing.

That move was announced on Friday in the US by Chicago-based Options Clearing Corp, the world’s largest equity derivatives clearing house, which said the Chinese firm’s trading symbol will change from “DIDI” to “DIDIY” effective at the opening of business on June 13.

Didi was described on Futu, a popular brokerage service in Hong Kong, as officially delisted on Saturday. It capped an 11-month fiasco that wiped out US$57 billion in Didi’s value, which turned the company into a cautionary tale for investors in Chinese tech stocks.

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Beijing-based Didi Chuxing, which conducted its initial public offering on the NYSE under the name Didi Global in June 30 last year, is expected to soon be cleared by Chinese regulators from a cybersecurity review and resume normal operations. That would include reinstating its 26 apps in various Chinese app stores and restarting new user registrations in its home market.

People walk past the headquarters of Chinese ride-hailing services provider Didi Chuxing in Beijing on December 3, 2021. Photo: Reuters alt=People walk past the headquarters of Chinese ride-hailing services provider Didi Chuxing in Beijing on December 3, 2021. Photo: Reuters>

Didi’s shares on the NYSE on Friday closed US$2.29, an 84 per cent drop from the IPO price of US$14 in June last year.

The delisting “may negatively affect the price of and liquidity in [the company’s] securities”, Didi said in its filing in May to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

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On the OTC market, stock trades are made directly via a dealer network, without the supervision of a central exchange like the NYSE or Nasdaq Stock Market.

While the shift to the OTC market typically means smaller liquidity and less active trading, there have been cases in which a significant gain in stock price was recorded.

Luckin Coffee, for example, traded at US$1.50 per share at the end of June 2020 after its expulsion from Nasdaq over accounting fraud charges. But shares of China’s Starbucks challenger, based in the southeastern city of Xiamen, last Friday closed on the OTC market at almost US$12, which is a 700 per cent gain over the past two years.

Whatever the market’s response will be, Didi could now be on the cusp of being removed from Chinese regulators’ hot seat, which would give it room to manoeuvre and rebuild its operations in the world’s largest ride-hailing market.

Since its New York IPO in June last year and the government’s subsequent cybersecurity investigation, Didi’s order volume has plummeted by 29 per cent through March, according to a calculation of monthly growth rate figures published by China’s Ministry of Transport.

The successful shareholder vote on delisting was expected to enable Didi to complete its rectification process, part of the government-ordered cybersecurity review, “to resume normal operations”, according to an SEC filing in May by company chairman and chief executive Will Cheng Wei.

There are also signs that Beijing is moving to put the Didi saga behind it, enabling the resumption of Chinese tech firms’ overseas listing plans. The China Securities Regulatory Commission said in April that Didi’s delisting was a separate case and will not affect other US-listed Chinese tech firms listed in the US. It also pledged to support qualified companies to sell shares at home and abroad.

In the same month, Didi said it would not apply for public listing on any other stock exchange until it completed delisting, while assuring regulators that the firm’s priority is cooperating with the cybersecurity review and completing rectification measures.

The case of Didi has been widely watched because it is the first one involving the cybersecurity investigation of a US-listed Chinese firm. That resulted in China tightening its screening of overseas IPOs, requiring any firm that handles data of at least one million Chinese customers to undergo a cybersecurity review before it can go public.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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