The Chinese smartphone company that’s taken Africa by storm had a gangbusters stock market debut.
Transsion, which dominates Africa’s phone market with its Tecno brand, soared as much as 96% on its first day of trading on China’s Nasdaq-style stock market, briefly pushing its valuation to $7.7 billion.
The stock later gave up some of those gains but still closed up 64%, valuing Transsion at 46.24 billion yuan ($6.48 billion).
Zhu Zhaojiang, founder and chairman of Transsion, controls nearly 14% of the company after the listing, according to the IPO prospectus. His stake is worth 6.41 billion yuan ($898 million) based on Monday’s closing share price.
Transsion raised $400 million in its IPO on the Star Market, China’s answer to the Nasdaq. Its listing triggered a rush among investors — only one in 20 online bidders were allocated shares, while only three in 1,000 offline bidders were successful.
The Shenzhen-based company, which also owns the Itel and Infinix brands, doesn’t sell a single phone in China. But it accounts for nearly 49% of the market in Africa, according to data from IDC.
In 2018, Transsion sold 124 million cell phones worldwide, generating 22.65 billion yuan ($3.3 billion) in revenue.
The company said in its IPO prospectus that its products have features that “highly suit our target market,” including phones that use nighttime photography settings designed for darker skin tones.
Transsion’s technology also includes heat protection for electronics and cellphones that have a large battery capacity. In Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia, for example, the power supply can be unreliable, leaving people unable to charge their phones for hours.
Price is another advantage. Transsion sells phones without smart features for as little as $9. It sold nearly 60 million Itel phones at that price last year, according to the prospectus. It also sold more than 30 million non-smart Tecno phones at about $11 each.
The company’s smartphones are more expensive, but still cheaper than many rivals. In 2018, Transsion sold 34 million phones for between $45 and $91.
It faces challenges, though. The company admitted in its prospectus that other vendors, such as India’s Lyf, are also selling low-priced devices. Rivals like Huawei, Xiaomi and Samsung are also pushing harder into Africa and India.
The company is responding to competition by moving into new territories, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam. It also started selling digital accessories and home appliances. And it is relying more on mobile internet services like its own music app, games and digital payment services as a source of revenue.
The company said it wants to use the money raised from the IPO to build smartphone factories and research and development centers in Chongqing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
The IPO is the second largest so far for the Star Market, a board on the Shanghai stock exchange that launched in July and is viewed as part of China’s bid for tech superpower status. The initiative was unveiled less than a year ago by President Xi Jinping.
Including Transsion, 33 stocks have debuted on the Star Market, many of them from the tech and manufacturing sectors. All the stocks have surged above their IPO prices.