China's Largest Movie Ticketing App Maoyan Files for $1 Billion IPO in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Skyline 1 GETTY H 2016

The listing would step up the Tencent-backed company's battle with rival ticketing service Tao Piao Piao, owned by Jack Ma's Alibaba.

Maoyan Weying, China’s biggest online movie ticketing platform, filed an application with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Monday for a long-rumored initial public offering. 

A timetable for the offering and its financial terms weren't disclosed, but the planned IPO, jointly led by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, is expected to raise around $1 billion, according to earlier estimates. It would make Maoyan Weying the first major Chinese ticketing platform to be publicly listed.

The listing would also give the company, which is backed by Chinese internet giant Tencent, an influx of cash to use in its ongoing battle for market share with rival ticketing service Tao Piao Piao, owned by Jack Ma's Alibaba Group.

Maoyan's IPO prospectus says it was the "largest online movie ticketing service provider in China with a market share of 60.9 the first half of 2018." It was the second largest seller of live entertainment tickets over the same period.

Online ticketing platforms have become a powerful, albeit occasionally controversial, segment of the Chinese film industry. Analysts estimate that more than 90 percent of all movie tickets are bought online in China — most over cell phones — compared to approximately 30 percent in the U.S.

During 2015 to 2016, a period of fierce competition and consolidation in the online ticketing space, the leading platforms offered steep discounts in a bid to secure market share, creating wild price distortions that were later blamed for contributing to a sudden slowdown in growth at the Chinese box office.

Executives from China's largest film studios can still often be heard grumbling about how discount subsidies to ticketing platforms have become a costly but unavoidable part of their marketing budget. But others argue that online ticketing has helped the Chinese industry reach new consumers who otherwise might not be regular moviegoers while creating a powerful suite of new mobile marketing tools. 

In addition to simply selling tickets over its platform, Maoyan Weying also regularly co-finances, distributes and markets movies in China. It has previously been involved in big-ticket titles such as Stephen Chow's The Mermaid, local blockbuster Buddies in India and Paramount's Transformers: The Last Knight.

In its current, massive form, the company was created via a merger of two rival ticketing platforms in September 2017. It then raised 1 billion yuan ($146 million) from Tencent last November in a funding round valuing the ticketing firm at 20 billion yuan ($2.9 billion). 

Maoyan's other major backers include Shenzhen-listed film producer Beijing Enlight Media and Meituan Dianping, the China’s largest group-buying and restaurant reviews service, which is itself preparing for a huge listing in Hong Kong at a valuation of $55 billion.

More to come...