Audio services platform Ximalaya pursues IPO in Hong Kong again after multiple failures

This is a twisted story. In a recent disclosure by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the audio service platform Ximalaya has filed yet another prospectus, this time with Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and CICC as joint sponsors. Ximalaya’s IPO journey spans three years, beginning in May 2021 when it filed its IPO application with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Following the significant decline of Chinese stocks in the U.S., Ximalaya quickly pivoted to Hong Kong, submitting two IPO applications in September 2021 and March 2022. This marks Ximalaya’s fourth attempt, comparable to climbing the Himalayas.

Ximalaya was established in Shanghai in 2012 and boasts a diverse group of investors, including strategic investors such as Tencent and Xiaomi, and financial investors from renowned domestic and international investment organisations like the U.S. Pan-Atlantic Investment Group and Goldman Sachs. As China’s largest online audio platform, Ximalaya is ranked in the newly released Global Unicorn Index 2024 with a valuation of 23.5 billion RMB (approx. 3.24 billion USD).

According to the latest prospectus, Ximalaya’s revenue in 2023 was 6.16 billion RMB (approx. 0.85 billion USD), marking a shift from loss to profit. In terms of user base, Ximalaya had an average of 303 million monthly active users across all scenarios and 133 million monthly active users on mobile in 2023, representing a 9.3% year-on-year increase.

Ximalaya’s platform revenue is supported by four pillars: subscriptions, advertising, livestreaming, and other innovative products and services. In recent years, the ‘Sound Economy’, exemplified by podcasts, has become a trend, attracting brands and marketers such as Anta and LV, who have their own audio programmes or audio-related marketing campaigns.

The online audio industry competition is intensifying with the rise of the ‘Sound Economy’. Ximalaya’s rivalry with direct competitors Lizhi and Dragonfly FM has become fiercer, while the entry of internet companies like ByteDance, Bilibili, and Tencent has further heightened industry competition.

As a competitive advantage, Ximalaya has acquired the audio copyrights to several film and TV drama originals. During the trend of “Joy of Life 2”, an average of 390K people visited the platform daily to listen to the original works, with member orders increasing by 143.77% year-on-year and search activity on the platform reached a record high. Users have developed certain behavioural habits, coming to Ximalaya to listen to the grand finale of the film in advance.

In the prospectus, Ximalaya highlights the application of AI technology. Currently, Ximalaya extensively uses Automatic Speech Recognition, Text-to-Speech, and other technologies in the production of Pingshu, News, Novels, etc. Ximalaya has also established the Qomolangma Lab, developed the ‘Qomolangma Audio AI Model’, and launched AI-driven audiobook and podcast production.


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