Shares of Chinese ride-hailing provider Didi are sharply lower this morning after news broke that its domestic regulators are investigating the newly public company. A loose translation of the probe’s official notice indicates that the cybersecurity review is “in order to prevent national data security risks, maintain national security, and protect the public interest.”
Yesterday, regulators ordered Didi to stop registering new users during the investigation.
The move comes amid a larger reset of relations between China’s burgeoning technology sector and its autocratic government. Other fallouts from the campaign included the effective silencing of Jack Ma, the embarrassing cancellation of the Ant IPO, and a crackdown on data collection from technology companies more broadly.
China is not the only nation grappling with its technology sector; India has made consistent noise in recent months regarding tech firms inside its borders, for example. And there is effort inside the U.S. Congress to put some cap on Big Tech’s scale and power, though of the trio, the United States appears the least likely to take a real swipe at technology companies’ market influence.
That Didi has run afoul of China’s regulatory bodies is not a surprise; it’s a well-known tech company in the country with lots of consumer data. Similar data-rich tech shops in the country have come under increased scrutiny as well.
But to see Didi get taken to task mere days after its U.S. debut puts a bad taste in our mouths.
The way that this saga reads from the cynical perspective is that the Chinese Communist Party was willing to let the company go public in the United States, allowing it to raise billions of dollars from foreign sources. And that the ruling party was then content to leave them holding a mid-sized bag by announcing its cybersecurity probe.
Hanlon’s Razor is at play in this situation, naturally.
Didi has not published a new SEC filing since June 30, and, as of the time of writing, its investor relations page is devoid of any information regarding today’s news.
While going public, it’s worth noting that Didi did warn investors that it faces a host of risks relating to its status as a Chinese company, namely its government, and as a Chinese company going public in the United States. Observe the following risk factors that it shared while going public (emphasis added) that dealt with the company’s business operations:
Our business is subject to numerous legal and regulatory risks that could have an adverse impact on our business and future prospects.
Our business is subject to a variety of laws, regulations, rules, policies and other obligations regarding privacy, data protection and information security. Any losses, unauthorized access or releases of confidential information or personal data could subject us to significant reputational, financial, legal and operational consequences.