Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg

Singapore's Game Startup Sea Raised $884 Million in New York IPO

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Singapore’s Sea Ltd., Southeast Asia’s most valuable startup, raised about $884 million in its initial public offering in New York.

The company sold 59 million American depositary shares for $15 apiece, according to a statement Friday, offering more shares and pricing them above its initial range of $12 to $14 each. The total amount may be more than $1 billion if an option to sell additional shares is exercised, according to a person familiar with the matter, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.

The games company is backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd. and has benefited from the Chinese company’s support. Sea licenses games from Tencent, which also holds a stake of about 40 percent in the smaller company. Investors are scooping up Sea’s shares despite rising losses at the company as it diversifies into e-commerce and payments. Sea had a net loss of $165.2 million in the first half of the year on revenue of $195.5 million.

It was valued at $3.75 billion in its 2016 fundraising and will surpass $4 billion with the IPO.

“Sea is a future-looking investment,” Kai-Fu Lee, founder of Beijing-based Sinovation Ventures, said before the offering. “Investors are betting that it can become the 800-pound gorilla that will make all the money it may have lost.”

Forrest Li

Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg

The Tencent of Southeast Asia Isn’t Really Like Tencent at All

Sea was founded by Forrest Li as an online gaming company in 2009 and originally named Garena. He rebranded the company to reflect its regional ambition and diversification. Sea branched out with a digital payments service called AirPay in 2014 and the mobile shopping business Shopee in 2015.

Sea’s games business, which retained the Garena name, still accounts for more than 90 percent of total revenue. Like Tencent, the company offers games for free, then collects money when players buy virtual items like armor, weapons or special skills. It makes money in e-commerce from commissions and advertising, while collecting fees from payments.

With Tencent’s support, the startup has attracted marquee backers. They include the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund and several Asian billionaires. Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group AG are leading the public offering.

The American depositary shares are set to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange Friday under the ticker symbol SE, the company said.

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