Goldman-Backed Games Startup Aims for Vietnam's First IPO Abroad

  • Vietnam’s VNG Corp. signs MOU to list shares on the Nasdaq
  • Company would be first Vietnamese tech startup to list in U.S.

Communist-led Vietnam may soon have its first technology company go public in the U.S.

VNG Corp., a game developer whose investors include Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and GIC Pte, signed a memorandum of understanding to list on the Nasdaq Stock Market after regulatory approval from the Vietnam government, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Le Hong Minh said. The process could take 18 to 24 months, he said.

“No Vietnamese company has ever filed for an IPO overseas,” he said in a Skype interview from New York City. “We are anticipating it will be a challenging process.”

Minh did not disclose the timing or size of VNG’s IPO. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who is in the U.S. to talk with President Donald Trump May 31, met with an executive from Nasdaq and Minh in New York City May 29 after the MOU was signed, according to VNG. His presence is an indication the government supports the startup’s overseas IPO, Minh said.

“Vietnam’s tech sector has drawn a lot of attention from investors lately,” said Anh-Minh Do, a director at Vertex Ventures Holdings in Singapore. “The question is whether VNG’s success is repeatable in this young ecosystem.”

Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups, founded by Dave McClure, created a $10 million Vietnam fund last year. It joined DFJ VinaCapital, whose $30 million fund established in 2007 is managed jointly by Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a Menlo Park, California-based firm, and VinaCapital Investment Management Ltd.

VNG, founded in 2004 and based in Ho Chi Minh City, forecasts 2017 revenue of $180 million, a rise of as much as 70 percent from last year, Minh said. The company’s games, including Sky Garden: Farm in Paradise and Dead Target, have shipped to more than 230 countries, according to the company. Its chat app Zalo has more than 70 million users in Vietnam and countries including Myanmar, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan.
“It’s a very good sign that a Vietnamese company can become a global company by going to a global capital market,” Minh said. “It will help attract a lot of attention and investment to Vietnam.”

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