China’s Beijing Kunlun to revisit Grindr IPO

FILE PHOTO: Grindr app is seen on a mobile phone in this photo illustration taken in Shanghai
FILE PHOTO: Grindr app is seen on a mobile phone in this photo illustration taken in Shanghai, China March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

July 29, 2019

By Meg Shen and Echo Wang

HONG KONG/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd said on Monday it would revive plans for an initial public offering (IPO) of popular gay dating app Grindr Inc, after a U.S. national security panel dropped its opposition to the plan.

Kunlun said in May it had agreed to a request by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to sell Grindr, setting a June 2020 deadline to do so and putting preparations for an IPO of Grindr on hold.

A source familiar with the matter said on Monday that Kunlun’s efforts to sell Grindr outright were continuing even as the IPO preparations were relaunched.

A Grindr spokeswoman declined to share more information about the IPO plans. Kunlun did not respond to requests for comment. The U.S Treasury Department, which chairs CFIUS, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CFIUS has not disclosed its concerns about Kunlun’s ownership of Grindr. However, the United States has been increasingly scrutinizing app developers over the safety of personal data they handle, especially if some of it involves U.S. military or intelligence personnel.

Reuters reported in May that Kunlun had given some Beijing-based engineers access to the personal information of millions of Americans, including private messages and HIV status.

Kunlun said in May it would shut down Grindr’s China operations and would not send any sensitive user data to China, in an effort to address concerns over data privacy.

Grindr will be listed on a stock exchange outside China, with the timing of the move to be decided according to overseas capital market conditions, Kunlun said in a filing to the Shenzhen stock exchange on Monday.

Kunlun is one of China’s largest mobile gaming companies. It acquired a majority stake in Grindr in 2016 for $93 million and bought out the remainder of the company in 2018. It did so without submitting the transactions for CFIUS review.

Kunlun’s control of Grindr has fueled concerns among privacy advocates in the United States. Democratic U.S. Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to Grindr last year demanding answers about how the app would protect users’ privacy under its Chinese owner.

(Reporting by Meg Shen in Hong Kong and Echo Wang in New York; Editing by Jan Harvey and Chris Reese)