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China's fast-fashion retailer Shein files for U.S. IPO: Reuters sources

A page from the Shein website is shown in this photo, in New York, June 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) A page from the Shein website is shown in this photo, in New York, June 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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China-founded fashion company Shein has confidentially filed to go public in the United States, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley have been hired as lead underwriters on the offering, and Shein could go public sometime in 2024, the sources said.

The fast-fashion giant's moves to go public comes at a time when the market for initial public offerings is struggling to rebound after a string of lacklustre stock market debuts in the U.S.

In recent months, there were four major IPOs, and three of them disappointed investors. Shares of German sandal-maker Birkenstock, grocery delivery app Instacart and chip designer Arm Holdings dropped below their IPO prices in the days that followed their debuts, though Arm's shares are now trading above that price.

"It doesn't strike me as the most opportune time for Shein to come public, but if they need capital the markets are open at least we've had a rally off the lows in the last few weeks and investor sentiment has been more positive than it was a few weeks ago," said Jason Benowitz, senior portfolio manager at CI Roosevelt.

"When investors can review the financials, I would expect to see pretty strong growth historically... the key question will be if they can kind of maintain the pace or to continue to gain market share going forward," he said.

Shein had started low-profile roadshows for the float in the U.S., said one of the sources, both declining to be identified due to confidentiality restraints.

The retailer's latest move also comes amid tightened scrutiny on the company from U.S. lawmakers.

In August, Republican attorneys general from 16 U.S. states asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to audit China-founded fast-fashion retailer Shein's supply chain for the use of forced labour ahead of its potential IPO.

Shein, known for its US$10 tops and US$5 biker shorts, ships the majority of its products directly from China to shoppers by air in individually addressed packages.

The direct shipping strategy helped the firm avoid unsold inventory piling up in warehouses and avoid import tax in the United States, one of its biggest markets, as it allows the e-tailer to take advantage of the "de minimis" provision that exempts cheap products from tariffs.

The tax provision is now under growing congressional scrutiny, with critics saying it allows the companies to evade higher tariffs on Chinese goods.

Reuters in July reported that Shein, which had previously halted IPO plans almost twice, has been working with at least three investment banks about a potential IPO and was in talks with the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq.

Shein, which is now based in Singapore, declined to comment.

Goldman and JPMorgan declined to comment while Morgan Stanley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company was valued at more than US$60 billion in May and is expected to become the most valuable China-founded company to go public in the United States since ride-hailing giant Didi Global's debut in 2021 at US$68 billion valuation.

Fast fashion retailers have been gaining popularity in the United States, with Shein taking away market share from the likes Gap as shoppers look for fresher styles and trendier clothing.

In August, Shein partnered with SPARC Group, a joint venture between Forever 21 owner Authentic Brands and mall operator Simon Property, in an attempt to expand their market reach and build on the growing demand for their products.

Shein along with Temu.com, however, have not been able to see shopper visits to their sites turn into sales and are far behind market leader Amazon.com, which has been able to convert visitors into buyers.

Shein's confidential IPO was first reported by the Wall Street Journal earlier on Monday.

(Reporting by Pritam Biswas and Ananya Mariam Rajesh in Bengaluru; Kane Wu in Hong Kong and Anirban Sen in New York; Additional Reporting by Rishabh Jaiswal in Bengaluru and Miyoung Kim in Singapore; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Stephen Coates)

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