A subsidiary of a firm closely linked to Tsinghua University – an institution whose notable alumni include China’s President Xi Jinping and former president Hu Jintao – has agreed to buy a 15 percent stake in 500.com Ltd.
Under the deal an executive that has headed some of the university’s business interests will become a director of 500.com, according to an announcement by the latter.
At the close of trading on Nasdaq on Tuesday, 500.com’s share price stood at US$25.50 per American Depositary Receipt (ADR), a rise of 7.32 percent on the day.
Tuesday’s announcement from 500.com said Tsinghua Unigroup International Co Ltd – a subsidiary of Tsinghua Unigroup Co Ltd – would take a stake in 500.com. According to the release, Tsinghua Unigroup is majority owned by Tsinghua Holdings Co Ltd, which is in turn 100 percent owned by Tsinghua University in Beijing. The institution is ranked as one of China’s best seats of learning.
Zhao Weiguo – the person that will become a 500.com director – has served various management roles in Tsinghua Unigroup, including as chief executive and chairman. Mr Zhao also serves as a senior vice president of Tsinghua Holdings, according to the statement.
Under the deal, Tsinghua Unigroup International will purchase 63,500,500 newly issued Class A ordinary shares of 500.com for approximately US$123.8 million in cash. The per share purchase price of US$1.95 (corresponding to US$19.5 per ADR) is said to represent a 1.4 percent discount of the average closing trading price of the company’s ordinary shares for the 30 trading days ended June 8, 2015, or a 17.9 percent discount of the closing trading price of the company’s ordinary shares on June 8, 2015, the day prior to the date of the purchase agreement.
Shenzhen-based 500.com in 2013 launched an initial public offering on Nasdaq of ADRs – with each ADR representing 10 Class A shares – on the strength of what it said was permission for a pilot scheme agreed by China’s Ministry of Finance to sell tickets for the China sports lottery via an online platform.
The China lottery generated RMB382.38 billion (US$61.5 billion) in total ticket sales in 2014, a year-on-year rise of 23.6 percent, according to the Ministry of Finance.
This year 500.com faced the threat of shareholder litigation in the United States. From early March to early April the ADRs fell below their offer price. That followed a series of Chinese government announcements starting in late February and ending in early April that progressively limited and finally suspended all online sales of government lottery tickets pending a review of the regulatory framework for such sales.
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